The Jungle Book has been a staple in children’s literature for many decades. Even though the book is comprised of many stories with different characters, the three stories about the young boy Mowgli are among the most popular. This popularity is largely due to the 1967 Disney animated film, considered to be one of their classics and was remade in 2016. However, Disney’s telling has, like many of their classic films, covered up the dark nature of the original story. Now actor Andy Serkis brings his vision of the story in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; which fully embraces the darkness of the story.
I was all excited for this when the first trailer came out, intrigued by the dark tone of the story. It’s certainly not what I was expecting, and even I didn’t know about the dark nature of the book up until then. So, when it was announced that Warner Bros. had sold the distribution rights to Netflix, I was very disappointed. Yeah I would be able to watch it for free in my home, but I’ve recently come to the realization that watching films on Netflix is far less exciting than watching them in theaters. Especially when it comes to films that were designed to be seen in theaters.
It seems rather useless to give the plot line of the film because we all know what The Jungle Book is about at this point. To give any details that aren’t in the Disney counterparts would be to spoil crucial parts of the story. The only difference is that this version, directed by Serkis, is closer to the tone of the original book; which means it’s darker, more violent, and not all that kid friendly at times. This makes it, in my opinion, the better adaptation I’ve seen.
Certainly the best parts of this film are the visuals. When Andy Serkis is involved, you know the movie is going to have amazing visuals, and this film is no different. The sets, landscapes, and characters are all gorgeous and very well detailed. It’s pleasing to the eye and had its own unique style. It seems as though Serkis might have his own visual style, and it would be amazing to see if he can develop this in future directing efforts.
Behind all that CGI are the works of an exceptional cast. It consists of Serkis, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris, and Rohan Chand. Everyone on this list gave exceptional performances, even through their motion captured disguises. They were able to translate full emotion through the effects without getting washed out by them. It’s really quite something.
However, there were times when Chand, the kid portraying Mowgli, wasn’t really the best. Don’t get me wrong, overall his performance was good. He did a great job interacting with animal characters that weren’t really there, and running in an environment that was pretty much all visual effects. But there were times where the delivery of some of the more emotional lines seemed a little over-the-top. It seemed like he was trying too hard sometimes, like he knew he was the star and wanted to carry the role like an Oscar-worthy actor. But for the most part he did a fine job.
The other thing I loved most about this film was the tone. I actually appreciated the darker take on the classic story. Sure, it was pretty off-putting to see the violent event of the story (there’s a lot more blood and death than in previous versions). However, you have to remember that this is how the book was originally written. It was meant to be this violent. If you’ve grown accustomed to the downplayed Disney version, then you would definitely find parts of this movie uncomfortable. I just found it to be very refreshing.
With no fairy tales formulas to fall back on, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is allowed to be what it was meant to be; one of the more faithful adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s classic stories. I’m still sad that I wasn’t able to see this one in theaters. I think it would have been so much better, especially in 3D. Still, even the streaming platform didn’t stop this from being an emotional fantasy film that proves Andy Serkis has the potential to be a great director. Let’s just hope he gets more jobs after this.