See Kipling’s tale in a new and darker light
Most of us know the story of Mowgli, the little boy who was raised by wolves and befriended by goofy bear Baloo and other jungle-dwelling creatures. Ever since 1967, when Disney released its adaptation of The Jungle Book, that’s how the Rudyard Kipling story has been remembered – from Tailspin to the recent live-action remake of the animation classic, it’s a fun, friendly singalong romp for all ages.
What you might not know about The Jungle Book is that Walt Disney rejected the first script for the film. Based more closely on the original stories, it was, Disney felt, too dark for the family vibe he wanted.
But for Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018), now streaming on Netflix, Andy Serkis decided to go back to those Kipling tales, creating a movie that is a blend of the original stories and Disney’s film: darker than the latter, while lighthearted at times, and altogether spectacular.
Shot in Durban, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle looks amazing. The jungles are lush and the scenery is beautiful and striking – even at tense moments. There is a gripping shot of Mowgli hiding underwater as his nemesis, the tiger Shere Khan, takes a bloody drink of water above. It’s grim and foreboding, yet impressive and stunning to experience.
But the animals are what stand out the most. Serkis is known as pretty much the best motion-capture artist alive. He’s portrayed everything from King Kong to Caesar in Planet of the Apes to the super-creepy Gollum. There have been calls to create an Academy Awards category for the type of work he does (not a bad idea!). In other words, if anyone can bring computer-generated talking animals to life and make them seem real, it’s this guy. And he does.
If you’re in the mood for a bleaker, deeper and more disturbing version of The Jungle Book, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. It’s not without its lighter side and could even be suitable for older children, but the suspense and stark violence might shock or blindside more sensitive viewers.
If you’re in the mood for a bleaker, deeper and more disturbing version of The Jungle Book, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.
And it must be said that the movie is not without a few irksome flaws. The tone makes some hard turns, slipping between harsh reality and fluffy fairytale moments. This can hamper the suspension of disbelief and doesn’t help prepare the audience for how dark the story will go.
It also covers a lot of ground and gets its messages mixed up. If you feel a little bad for the tiger at the end of the movie or if you felt the hunter thread wasn’t dealt with adequately, you are not alone. Some of this might be because the original Kipling stories are archaic and out of touch with today’s world.
But for many, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle will be an epic adventure, complete with great visuals, excellent mo-cap acting, an impressive voice cast and a new, no-holds-barred take on the legend of The Jungle Book. Welcome to the jungle.