Dear Christopher Boyes,
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer is yes, if you’re involved.
Your manipulation of the sonic landscape in The Jungle Book left such a strong impression, it trumped all my feelings of nostalgia. The Jungle Book is very near and dear to my heart. Growing up in India as a scrawny kid with a penchant for running around in his underwear, I not only related to the adventures of Mowgli — I was Mowgli. So, when I heard Disney was working on a live-action reboot of the tale of the boy raised by wolves, I became defensively hesitant. I had high expectations going into The Jungle Book, and wow, was I impressed.
Your auditory involvement was so powerful that I was rocked out of my memories by Shere Khan’s thunderous roar. At that moment, I felt like I was an antelope standing next to the mighty Bengal tiger. I felt his strength and his dominance. I felt terrified.
You also expertly showcase the dangers of the Madhya Pradesh jungles through your use of sound. When Mowgli is asleep on top of a bison, he’s woken by the deep rumblings of a heavy mudslide. The way the mudslide slowly but forcefully tears down the mountain side, cracking trees and tumbling rocks along the way made everyone in the audience clench their butt cheeks in anticipation (I assume, I didn’t actually check).
You’re probably the only person who wasn’t surprised by how many times viewers jumped in their seats in shock. You knew exactly what you were doing when you signed on.
I couldn’t help but cringe during the showdown between Shere Khan and Bagheera, a stern yet wise black panther. The angry roars and piercing scratches made me want to pack up my body in layers upon layers of claw-proof padding.
Every animal featured in The Jungle Book commanded the screen. When we first lay eyes on King Louie, we’re astounded by how massive he is. In the original film, King Louie is a simple orangutan, but in The Jungle Book, he’s a Gigantopithecus, a distant ancestor of the orangutan. The thuds and vibrations you added whenever Louie thwacks his husky arms against his temple floor emphasizes his physical presence. You can practically feel how large he his purely be the sounds he emits.
Conversely, Kaa, the seductive serpent voiced by Scarlett Johansson entranced the audience through her hypnotic speech rather than her large presence. The echoes you tampered with in Kaa’s dialogue gave me a strange contradictory feeling of serenity and impending doom. The way you handled the subtle pitch changes in Kaa's voice sent shivers down my spine.
Your audio work hit me harder than Star Wars: The Force Awakens did. This is due, in large part, to The Jungle Book being filmed in IMAX 3D. While IMAX alone is no longer special these days, it does take a special film to truly harness the medium’s power of cinematic immersion. The Jungle Book is that special film, in more ways than one.
The Jungle Book is a solid reintroduction to the original source material. The story and characters bring back the charm while your sound designs inject a new vigor to the Disney classic. I doubt the eventual 2018 release of Jungle Book by Warner Bros will be able to pull off the same feat. Warner Bros seems to be more concerned with gaining box office numbers than paying homage to an animated staple.
I guess we can’t all focus on the bare necessities.