Andy Serkis, the man underneath the motion capture suits in LotR and Planet of the Apes (and one of the most versatile creatives in the industry) is still charting his path through directorial waters. In 2017, the British drama Breathe, which served as Serkis’ debut feature, failed to capture significant box office attention in both the U.S. and England, and now Warner Bros. has sold Mowgli (Serkis’ second feature work, and a darker take on Kipling’s Jungle Book) to Netflix for a primarily streaming release. Mowgli stands in contrast to Disney’s 2016 The Jungle Book, which scored popular attention all around. Yet, as described in this informative Variety article, Mowgli now abandons a widespread theatrical distribution model, postpones its premiere, and sees a streaming release next year.
Readers themselves can view the film’s condition and the infer reasons why it was dropped off WB’s release slate by checking out the previously released trailer. The film doesn’t seem to stand up to the immensely impressive CGI work done by Jon Favreau’s team for the Disney version; the animals and the environments are not as rich and atmospheric and, as DC universe releases have proven, a darker take on things is difficult to pull off with mainstream aplomb.
The cast that includes Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris and Serkis (as the wise bear Baloo) wasn’t enough to convince WB that the film could bring in viewers. Serkis worked diligently on the film since 2014; hopefully he will be satisfied with the minimal theatrical distribution model that is included in the Netflix package. Whatever happens to the film upon its release, the deal between WB and Netflix shows that streaming services are an attractive way for wary studios to sell properties, and also an audience-friendly approach when major studios decide to pass on distributing a film.