Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle feels so redundant coming just over two and a half years following the release of Disney’s The Jungle Book.
Let’s go through this one more time. A young child who grows up to be a man-cub, Mowgli (Rohan Chand), is orphaned in the jungle when Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacks his family. A panther, Bagheera (Christian Bale), rescues him and leaves him with the wolves where Nisha (Naomie Harris) adopts Mowgli. A few years later, both Baloo (Andy Serkis) and Bagheera train the young man-cub for the rules of the jungle. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t like them but if he wants to live, it’s the bare necessities of life.
Through the years, the other animals have come to accept Mowgli as one of their own. But not Shere Khan or hyena Tabaqui (Tom Hollander). But Shere Khan isn’t the only villain of the story. The human aspect of his life was always going to come back to haunt him at some point. In this case, it comes by way of the tiger-hunting Lockwood (Matthew Rhys). Yes, Mowgli has to evolve at some point since he’s no longer that same little kid at the end of the film.
It does not matter that Andy Serkis ops for a darker non-musical version of the story. Serkis’ version of Baloo is way different than any version I’ve ever seen. He’s tougher on Mowgli than anyone. This is because comparisons between two photo-realistic films were always going to be inevitable. The fact of the matter is Mowgli fails on every level if one were to do go down a checklist. First published as a book in 1984, Sir Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book story has been adapted into films for many years dating back to 1942. Once you have the definitive adaptation, there soon becomes a question of whether or not it is necessary for another retelling. The answer to this question is no. It’s completely not necessary. One can make the “But Disney!” argument all day long and they’ll only fail.
I’m not even going to get into the commentary with regards to British imperialism because there’s been so much writing with regards to this. This film marks the 11th time in which the story has been adapted into film. What would have set it apart from the other live-action films would have been the photo-realistic depictions of the animals. But Disney beat Serkis to the punch and released said film in 2016. You could have spaced out five years between films and it would still have us questioning why. Why is this film necessary? The biggest difference is the lack of songs until the end credits from what I can tell.
The special effects are alright but again, they’re not earth-shattering. Andy Serkis opts for performance-capture when it comes to the animals but it doesn’t work. As unfortunate as it may, the visual effects just left me wanting something else altogether.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle may be stay closer to Kipling’s stories but when it comes to The Jungle Book, Disney is still king of the jungle.
DIRECTOR: Andy Serkis
SCREENWRITER: Callie Kloves
CAST: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Rohan Chand, Matthew Rhys and Naomie Harris