Having been left for dead after a vicious tiger attack kills his parents, Mowgli is rescued by a benevolent Panther and taken in by a pack of wolves, who raise him as their own deep in the jungle – but lets be honest, you probably knew that already!
You to have to have a certain amount of pity for director Andy Serkis, who according to him work started on this Jungle Book adaptation for Netflix long before Disney had even announced their 2016 live action reworking. What potentially makes things worse is that version turned out to be rather good, so what place if any is there for Serkis’ darker take on the source material?
Although the DNA of the original story remains intact, the differences between versions are evident from the outset, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle focuses more on the character of Mowgli himself and how he comes to terms with his humanity. What this means in practical terms is that we get less screen time with the animals and more with Mowgli – some of the more famous animal roles have been cut down and some (like Baloo) have been altered significantly, don’t panic too much though, the talking animals are still present and correct.
That being said, it might not be advisable to sit down with the kids for this one, while it’s not an out and out blood bath there are some terrifying set pieces that are a little dark for family viewing. The darker tone here is a double-edged sword, on one hand it marks this version out as something different and on the other it makes the film feel a little dry and humourless in places, that may well because the Disney versions are so ingrained in our memory but it would be difficult to argue that their shadow doesn’t loom large over this effort.
The film looks great though, if not as polished as other productions, the CGI has a more stylised look to it and the jungle scenes are beautifully shot giving Mowgli a personality all of its own. The set pieces look great and the film’s finale is a stand out moment, the ancient looking elephants take on an almost ‘godlike’ quality and you are left in no doubt as to who rules the jungle when they make their appearance.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle isn’t a complete success but to write if off as unnecessary would be unfair, if you go in expecting more of The Jungle Book you know and love you will be disappointed but if you go in with your eyes open you might just come away with respect for Andy Serkis having the balls to try something a bit different.
Author: Paul, Bath store