A More Mature, Faithful Adaptation Of The Jungle Book Story
Trying to compete with the might of Disney was always going to be a tough ask for any Director. Much less the inexperienced Andy Serkhis in the Director’s chair. After the success Disney’s rebooted Jungle Book gained in 2016, Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle had an uphill battle to try and compete. When it was revealed the film would be a Netflix exclusive, people had all but written this one off. What a mistake that was. With a darker, more adult tone and a faithful adaptation of the original book, Mowgli is an impressive title, one only let down by a rushed third act and a really uneven CGI finish.
For those who have seen The Jungle Book or know the story, Andy Serkhis’ version very nearly beats the more popular Disney story. A baby is found in the jungle by a panther called Bagheera and together with a pack of wolves, they decide to raise him as one of their own. Much to the displeasure of the murderous tiger Shere Khan, who rules the jungle through fear. What follows is a journey that sees Mowgli learn his place in life, through the teachings of a grumpy bear called Baloo, the wolf pack and even the nearby human settlement. All of this culminates in a climactic fight with Shere Khan himself to try and bring balance back to the jungle as it’s thrown into chaos.
For the most part, the visuals in Mowgli are pretty good, although the CGI isn’t quite up the same standard as that seen in Disney’s lighter adaptation of the same book. It’s still good enough to make you feel these animals are real but not quite to the same benchmark that Disney set in 2016. Thankfully, the film is helped by a smattering of stars voicing these animals. From Christian Bale and Andy Serkhis to Naomie Harris and Benedict Cumberbatch, Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle spares no expense with its vocal talent. It pays off too, and each of these animals are instantly recognisable yet distinctly different from their Disney brethren.
This is a darker, more adult version of The Jungle Book and it’s clear very early on that this is a film much more faithful to the original book. There’s some nice moral lessons here too including the impact of deforestation and the effect hunters have on the eco-system in the jungle. Although these themes do weigh heavily on the overall narrative, they rarely feel overbearing and the film is all the stronger for it.
For all of its positives, Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle is let down by its third act. After a consistent pacing most of the way through this 110 minute film, the finale feels rushed and under-developed. While the climactic fight between Mowgli and Shere Khan is well shot for the most part and features a fair amount of tension, it all feels a little too quick and rushed. Having said all that, the film is arguably on par with Disney’s version which is surprising given the hate from major critics around this film.
Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle is simply a very mature, well written film. It’s one that re-imagines the jungle as an actual inhospitable, dangerous place while building up its characters in a realistic way. With a profound lack of lighthearted fun, Mowgli is a moody picture, one that revels in its dark tone and very nearly beats its Disney brethren. Those saying Netflix only release poor quality films can once again be proven wrong. Andy Serkhis’ film makes for a very good watch, and while it’s not without its fair share of problems, is on par with some of the better releases churned out in theaters every week and for that alone, Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle is well worth your time.
Verdict - 8/10