I’ve been ill for the past week. A problem with my ears has been affecting my balance, making even the most innocuous of activities thoroughly disorientating. I almost threw up tying my shoelaces the other day. Even lying in bed has proved challenging: desperately clinging onto the sides of the mattress in fear of being flung against my chest of drawers. With that in mind, it probably wasn’t the best idea to place myself in a 4DX auditorium, consisting of violently shaking seats, a 3D screen, squirting water and smelly gas. I was absolutely terrified. Luckily, there are no car chase scenes in The Jungle Book.
There are, however, in the 4DX sample trailer. Thinking (hoping) that the movement might not be so ferocious, I allowed myself to relax in what was a reasonably comfy seat. ‘This might not be so bad,’ I thought. And then a woman in the front row was launched to the back of the auditorium. Popcorn shot up in the air and yelps rang out as the audience was tossed around like socks in a washing machine. Air blew past our ears as 3D bullets flew out of the screen, we were splashed by water when driving through a puddle and the seats seismically shook with every bump and bounce of the tyres. Everyone was so surprised by its aggressiveness that their natural reaction was to laugh. I, meanwhile, was frantically gripping onto the arms of the chair, on the verge of crying and wondering if it was too late to take up a religion.
There was no way I’d be able to endure this for an entire film, but if I got out of my seat at the wrong time it might have catapulted me into someone’s lap. My only option was to stay and do the one thing that brings me comfort: look for flaws. And with these effects applied to Disney’s The Jungle Book, I was able to spot them pretty quickly. While the calmer movements for the crane and panning shots worked well to set the scene, the violent rumbling and jolting for moments of action didn’t exactly feel like it was corresponding with the visuals. I knew Mowgli was jumping, running and falling because my chair was punching me in the back, but recreating a tumble down a muddy ravine results in a generic jumble of thumps and tilts. It’s a bit like a parent holding their child up in the air, pretending they’re an aeroplane by swooping and shaking them in a way that’s probably now considered illegal.
Then they started releasing the smells. It was an ominous moment; clouds of smoke pouring from vents either side of the room, made even more terrifying by considerably loud hissing. God knows what they were pumping at us, but since no one was clawing at the walls or screaming, I assumed it was fine. I can only describe the scent as ‘Jungle’. And having never visited a jungle, I can’t vouch for its authenticity. It did immediately remind of a river candle I once bought, though, so full marks there.
As for the film itself, it plays it extremely safe, almost completely remaining true to the original content. I wasn’t too sure about the casting of Idris Elba as Shia Khan or even Bill Murray as Baloo, but then I was too busy trying not to vomit on the woman sat in front of me to really care. Christopher Walken has a memorable turn as King Louie (even if the songs feel colossally out of place), Ben Kingsley’s voice for Bagheera is the most believable and the only real thing in the entire film, 12-year-old Neel Sethi, couldn’t have been a better live action Mowgli. Even if his energetic movement was the cause of my naesua and wanting to die.