When a few years back it was announced that two separate films based on Rudyard Kipling’s masterwork, The Jungle Book, were being developed at Disney and Imaginarium Productions, I was both excited and puzzled. While The Jungle Book is a beloved story that is engrained in the imagination of children and adults, thanks to countless installments that had previously brought the adventurous tale to the big screen (both domestically and overseas,) it is quite unusual to see two studios put out installments based on the exact same material in close time proximity.
Two years ago, Jon Favreau (dir. Iron Man) released a hit with his The Jungle Book (2016) – the flick grossed around $1 billion, unanimously hailed by critics and audiences, particularly for the film’s extremely impressive CGI beasts, leading it to win an Academy Award for Best Special Effects. Two years is not a long time, and Favreau’s entertaining family film is still engrained in the public’s mind along with the lighter touch that Disney has been bringing to the story through all of their adaptations of Kipling’s work. Now, with the release of Imaginarium’s trailer for their Mowgli, it is evident that the film’s director, Andy Serkis, and his team are going for something different; a noble, yet difficult task.
From the start, the trailer presents a different version of Mowgli when compared to the smiley, song-singing boy that most are used to. This Jungle Book goes for something much darker, grittier, and the protagonist reflects that. Mowgli’s eyes are heavy, confined within dark, inky circles, giving off a burden placed on the boy that is not easy to carry. Serkis seems to be interested in exploring Mowgli’s own nature and his understanding of his humanity and wildness, rather than simply follow the usual adventure that occurs in the jungle. Yet, beside the clear desire to give the audiences something freshly serious and dark, Mowgli does not feel like an adaptation that could overpass the stigma that remains from Favreau’s extremely well-received film.
The CGI animals look more like mutated monsters from a badly drawn children’s book, which comes as a big surprise considering that Serkis has been involved in motion capture and creature CGI ever since the beginning of the practice, appearing as Gollum (Lord of the Rings,) King Kong, and most recently, Caesar from The Planet of the Apes reboot series.
The voice over work is handled by a star-packed cast that includes Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Harris and Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan (his second time playing a CGI-beast villain since appearing as Smaug in The Hobbit series.) Will the lead of the director and the work of the cast be able to deliver a darker tale of the beloved’s children’s story, despite the seemingly lacking CGI? Only time will show, but for now, good hunting.
Check out the trailer for Mowgli, in theaters this October!