Here is our review of MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE, the fresh take on Rudyard Kipling’s all time classic The Jungle Book stories. Does director Andy Serkis’ version stays true to the legacy created by Disney? Or it gets its own identity?. Find out in our review of MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE
THE JUNGLE BOOK 2016 v/s MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE
Beware! If you believed MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE to be that joy ride of fun songs etc for kids that Disney is famous for in this world, then be ready for the difference. The 2016 blockbuster helmed by Jon Favreau was a visual marvel that made direct route into our hearts starring Neel Sethi as Mowgli with voiceovers by Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson etc. Indians are awed by the Mowgli seen on television. The popular Japanese animated series on television that had Gulzar’s famous Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai song composed by Vishal Bhardwaj. This non Disney version ( for records, there are around 20+ movies on Kipling’s classic since 1967) takes the edgy, darker route and its more of Mowgli’s identity crises then those known moments with the brown bear Baloo, and the black panther Bagheera.
Narrated by Kaa (Cate Blanchett), the movie opens with a child sitting alone in a jungle. Bagheera (Christian Bale) finds the child and soon a pack of wolves decide to make him one of their own. The child grows into a boy Mowgli (Rohan Chand). Mowgli – the feral child who was abandoned in the woods after Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) has swallowed his parents. The grown up Mowgli has now to decide whether he belongs to the jungle or return back to the civilized society of humans.
This Mowgli is not for kids, This chaddi clad boy is not distributing ‘phools’ (flowers) and is kid friendly like the previous ones. Andy Serkis adds sinister pathos to Kipling’s ideology behind his all time classic, The Jungle Book (nature can be cruel at times but humans have been crueler since their origin). Andy Serkis Mowgli is the metaphor of identity crises over here, MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE is much bigger in its theme then it seems. In a telling scene that probes our ‘nature’ of acceptance, Mowgli is kept in a cage, the child of a human is treated as a strange creature from the other world by humans. Is he a wolf or a man?. So are we humans or animals? Or animals who turned humans?. Making a striking picture, Mowgli eagerly reaches for his food using all his four – hands and legs. But he dislikes the ‘cooked’ meal. All these incidents points towards the behavior of humans all over – the way we react to others with suspicion, and hate (the legacy has been passing on since generations). Andy Serkis version of The Jungle Book gives a back story to Shere Khan and it’s mounted on fear. The Disney’s singing, dancing bear Baloo (voiced here by the director) returns as the teacher on survival skills. So, MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE is also a movie on the theme of survival.
Sometimes vivid but mostly dark, cinematographer Michael Seresin’s visuals leave a distinctive mark. However the performance-capture falls short of the standards set by Disney and Andy Serkis. May be the small screen disadvantage, as reports suggest that Andy Serkis started it as a big screen feature but in most part of the world including India, the movie is available on Netflix.
Netflix came in after Warner Warner Bros decided not to be a part for their own reasons. Andy Serkis has mastered the art of performance capture and has excelled in movies like LORD OF THE RINGS, PLANET OF THE APES.
The detailing is seen, be it the blood soaked Shere Khan drinking water from a lake and the water turning crimson red. The pain on Bagheera’s face when he tells Mowgli to leave the jungle and go to his ‘home’.
Rohan Chand as Mowgli is perfect casting. He mostly speaks from his eyes. Frieda Pinto in her limited appearance is fine. The voice over’s fantastic. Christian Bale as Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as Kaa, Andy Serkis as Balloo, Naomie Harris as Nisha, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan all deserve praises.
As said earlier, This Mowgli is not for kids, it’s dark and sinister, people in India who have grown with jungle jungle pata chala hai, will find it tough to stomach this version which is in reality closer to the ideology/spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s stories. Kipling’s Mowgli in his stories written since 1893 was found in the Pench area in India’s Seoni area – a district in Madhya Pradesh. Here there is no such connection, no jungle jungle song, not shot in India.
Is MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE worth watching?
If you want to watch with your kids then beware – there are some intense action sequences and bloody images. It’s not the ideal family package where Baloo is enjoying his honey. For those who search for cinematic themes, layers in story telling then Andy Serkis have given the Jungle Book its DARK KNIGHT.