In 1984, Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book”, a collection of stories that would change the world. We were introduced to fictional animals such as the tiger Shere Khan and Baloo the bear. However, it was also the beginning of the boy or “man-cub” Mowgli. Human but raised by the wolves in the forest.
The Jungle Book became the inspiration for filmmaker and director and now Andy Serkis (“War For The Planet Of The Apes”, “Breathe”) can be added to that list. His latest film as a director isn’t only a darker version of the well-known stories but it’s also a visually stunning remake of it.
During a Q&A earlier this month, Serkis mentioned that he wanted to focus more on Mowgli as the leading character and wanted to show the story from his eyes and that’s exactly what he does.
Just as any adaptation, “Mowgli: The Legend of the Jungle” tells the acclaimed story of Mowgli (impressively portrayed by Rohan Chand) who is left to die in the jungle but who’s saved by a pack of wolves, who soon are treating the “man-cub” as their own.
While teaching him to become a real wolf, Baloo the bear (Andy Serkis) and Bagheera the black panther, Christian Bale (“The Big Short”, “American Hustle”) are also protecting him and the rest of the pack against the evil tiger Shere Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Grinch“, “Doctor Strange“).
It’s not the only threat Mowgli is facing. It becomes clear that he might not be the wolf he thought he was and when he discovers a man-village at the bottom of the forest, he becomes torn apart between the two worlds. Which of them does he really belongs to? Only Kaa, Cate Blanchett (“The House With A Clock In Its Walls“, “Thor: Ragnarok“), the Python, knows the answer to that.
Well, you might know it as well already in one of the Disney-fied versions. While those are the more child-friendly adaptions from the stories, the one from Serkis goes back to its darker and mysterious vibe.
Working with over more than 1000 people while making this movie, he’s absolutely not afraid of showing a lot of blood, agony, pain, and death. While the story might be the same as another of adaptation of “The Jungle Book”, there’s (almost) no place for joy, happiness and certainly no songs as “The Bare Necessities” or “I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)”.
Two years ago director Jon Favreau (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Chef”) had a stunning cast for his “The Jungle Book” that included Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), and Idris Elba (Shere Khan) as the voices of the familiar animals.
The same can be said for Serkis and this film. With voices from Christian Bale (Bagheera), Naomie Harris (Nisha) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Shere Khan) this film isn’t only very familiar but it also literally sounds very familiar.
Serkis himself took on the role of Baloo and he did cast his own son as the playful and innocent Bhoot, one of the wolf-cubs. If there’s some silliness and playfulness in this movie in a good way, it comes from Tom Hollander (“Breathe”, “A Private War”) who was cast as the kooky and nuts hyena Tabaqui. Rohan Chand (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, “Lone Survivor”) gives this movie a real human face in an impressive, emotional and exciting way.
“Mowgli: The Legend of the Jungle” won’t probably be the revelation or surprise during the upcoming awards season but there would (and it actually should be) an award for best motion-capture film of the year, it should go to this one.
The movie already had its cinematic run during which the fabulous and stunning visuals literally lit up the room and now you can watch it on the smaller screen as well. The visuals might not come fully to life while watching it that way but the closeness with the captivating animals make you drawn to the screen.