MOWGLI : LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE (2018)

  • Original Air Date: 7/12/2018
  • Cast: Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Peter Mullan, Rohan Chand, Freida Pinot, Matthew Rhys
  • Directed By: Andy Serkis

During his shot to shot breakdown of the Mowgli trailer, Andy Serkis (director) pointed out a key element that he was extremely cautious about when he approached this beloved masterpiece and decided to make it into a gritty and realistic film shredding it of any shine or fluff. He designed the animal characters morphing images of the real actors playing the characters and the images of the animals that they were playing. He chose a sweet spot in the transformation stage that resembled the animal but left a good chunk of the expressions and mannerisms that we associate with the particular actor who was voicing the animal. This is one aspect of Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle that stood out for me and on more than one occasion I was blown away by the realism that the expression of the animals had.

Mowgli:  Legend of the Jungle relates the story of Mowgli (Rohan Chand), an infant who was brought up by the wolves in a jungle somewhere in India. He grows up to be an unlikely savior for a jungle that is as much threatened by the fast-spreading human encroachment as it is by a psychotic and vindictive tiger known as Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is not afraid to unleash chaos and bring upon the wrath of the humans on the jungle if it means getting him closer to devouring Mowgli. Bagheera (Christian Bale), a brooding panther, Baloo (Andy Serkis), a flamboyant bear and Akela(Peter Mullan), an authoritative and traditional Wolf are all Mowgli have for company as he deals with being an outsider in both worlds and how best to use the skills of both worlds to matter and save all that he holds dear.

I loved this version of the enduring classics for a variety of reasons. First and foremost it is a different story. Even though I loved the Disney version of the story, this was definitely the kind of story that would be more affecting for the adults. While the basic feel of the story remains the same, the conflicts, the angst and the distance of the protagonist from the world that he has grown up in and the one that he was born to be a part of are on a much laid out and believable footing. There is a scene in the film wherein a super cute character is shrugged off by Mowgli when he is in a bad mood. Sadly, the character is killed off-screen and later Mowgli discovers his stuffed head in a hunter’s tent. This scene nearly extracted tears from my eyes. The point is being Mowgli has many such powerful sequences that are bound to help the film hit the audiences at their emotional core which wasn’t exactly the case with the Disney version.

Rohan Chand is a much better Mowgli than Neel Sethi. It was pointed out before that Neel Sethi didn’t quite make the kind of influence that he should have and it is more clear than ever after watching Rohan Chand in the character that he was, pardon me for judging a kid, not exactly what he should have been. Rohan is more expressive and as a matter of fact much more physical and emotive which not only elevates the character but also helps the audience to feel his pain and conflict. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he resembles a boy who was brought up in a jungle much more than his predecessors.

There have been some complaints here and there regarding the visual quality of Mowgli and after watching it twice, I really don’t see where that is coming from. Apart from a single shot in the climax where Bagheera and Baloo are shown running in to help Mowgli giving a feeling as though they are gliding through the land with some fake dust, The visuals remain consistently brilliant and breath-taking. The characters are rendered so expressive and resemble the once playing them to such an instance that one has to wonder how far more the visual effects boundary can be pushed. The voice talents are in strong keeping with the visuals and one can actually picturize the emotions of the animals through their voice modulations.

Benedict Cumberbatch once again proves that he can breathe life into a character through his voice. He is brilliant as Shere Khan and the way he pronounces certain words (don’t know whose idea that was), gave me chills. Christian Bale was the perfect choice for Bagheera. He has that authoritative ring to his voice which helps him to be the mentor and protector that Bagheera is. Andy Serkis is a pro in motion capture characters. He has even been nominated for best actor for a motion capture role (Caesar, War for the Planet of the Apes). Thus it is needless to say that he knows what he is doing with the character of Baloo. It must be noted that his version of Baloo is as far from the Disney version as it could be. He is serious and menacing and doesn’t do any comedy. Cate Blanchett as the snake Kaa is wonderful. Matthew Rhys as the hunter and a “somewhat” antagonist is great. I hated him for killing the cutest character in the whole film.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle deserved a Theatrical release. It is clear that Andy Serkis made this film with attention to painstaking details and a passion to tell his own version of the story. However, the Warner Brothers studio got jittery after the release and success of Disney’s “The Jungle Book” and now Mowgli has been reduced to being a Netflix film robbing the viewers of visual splendors that could be enjoyed only in theaters. If released, this film would have found a lot of takers among the adults as it is easily not a Kid’s film. I hope the producers see the reviews and realize their mistake and maybe give it a theatrical run even if it is for a limited period. I would love to see a theatrical version of this film that too in 3D. Until then we have to make do with Netflix.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

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