Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
|Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle|
|Directed by||Andy Serkis|
|Screenplay by||Callie Kloves|
|Based on||All the Mowgli Stories|
by Rudyard Kipling
|Music by||Nitin Sawhney|
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (also known and stylized on screen simply as Mowgli) is a 2018 adventure drama film directed by Andy Serkis with a screenplay by Callie Kloves, based on stories collected in All the Mowgli Stories by Rudyard Kipling. The film stars Rohan Chand, Matthew Rhys, and Freida Pinto, along with voice and motion capture performances from Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris, and Serkis.
Talks of a new Jungle Book film from Warner Bros. Pictures began in 2012 and various directors, including Steve Kloves, Ron Howard, and Alejandro González Iñárritu, were approached before Serkis was confirmed in March 2014. Much of the cast signed on that August and principal photography began in March 2015. Filming took place in South Africa and at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, England.
Originally scheduled to be released in October 2016 by Warner Bros. Pictures, the film was delayed numerous times to work on the visual effects and to create space between itself and the April 2016 release of Walt Disney Pictures' own Jungle Book adaptation. In July 2018, Warner Bros. Pictures sold the rights for the film to Netflix. The film was released in select theaters on November 29, 2018, followed by its subsequent digital Netflix release on December 7, 2018. It received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the cast, visual effects, and Serkis' direction, but many compared it unfavorably to the Disney film and criticized the uneven tone, calling it a "messy—if ambitious—misfire".
In the jungle, Kaa, a Indian python seer, watches as Shere Khan, a crippled Bengal tiger, breaks jungle law by hunting down a family of humans, with only a child escaping. Bagheera, a panther drawn to the scene, rescues the man-cub, Mowgli, and takes him to a family of Indian wolves being raised by Nisha and Vihaan, only for Tabaqui, Shere Khan's hyena lieutenant, to find the boy before he is chased off. They take the infant Mowgli before the wolf council and Akela, the leader of the pack, to decide his destiny with Bagheera buying his life with a kill and brown bear Baloo strong-armed into agreeing. Shere Khan arrives to kill Mowgli, but Akela stops him, saying the boy is now under the protection of the pack and forces Shere Khan to leave. Shere Khan swears he would return.
For many years after, Mowgli lives amongst the wolf pack. One day, Mowgli goes swimming alone and encounters Shere Khan. He manages to escape the tiger but then falls into a pit and is saved by Hathi, a benevolent Indian elephant missing a tusk. Bagheera finds Mowgli and takes him home. Though Bagheera reveals to Mowgli that he is a human and he will be safe if he goes to the Man-Village, Mowgli declares that he wishes to be a wolf. He declares that he will only go if he fails the pack's trial, which would determine if he can become a full member of the pack.
During the trial, Bagheera, acting as a predator to chase the young wolves and test their strength, continually chases Mowgli and causes him to fail when he would have come in first. As Baloo falls out with Bagheera over the issue, Mowgli is kidnapped by the Bandar-log, a gang of Hanuman langurs & macaques, on Tabaqui's orders for Shere Khan. Shere Khan attempts to kill Mowgli while he is unconscious but is stopped by Baloo and Bagheera. During their battle with Shere Khan's monkey minions, they are overwhelmed, only for Kaa herself to appear and save Mowgli.
Mowgli learns that Kaa has been watching him the whole time and that she believes that he has the power to change the jungle. She then directs him to face Shere Khan, who is again challenging Akela for Mowgli. Mowgli stops the tiger and Akela's challengers with fire taken from the Man-Village but shames himself in Akela's eyes and is forced to leave for the Man-Village. Mowgli is captured by the villagers, including the British colonial hunter John Lockwood and placed in a cage. Bagheera visits him and sadly tells him to stay, encouraging the boy to gain their trust, as Bagheera once did to escape captivity when he was young. Mowgli slowly comes to enjoy human and village life, being raised by the kindly Messua and learning hunting skills from Lockwood.
However, Mowgli's attitude towards Lockwood changes when he sees that Lockwood hunts for sport and has killed Bhoot, an albino wolf cub friend of Mowgli. He also learns that Shere Khan has driven the wolves loyal to Akela to the edge of the jungle. Mowgli meets with Baloo, Bagheera and the wolf pack, declaring that Shere Khan must die. The animals feel obligated to remain out of the conflict as it would break jungle law to fight Shere Khan. Regardless, Mowgli proceeds with his plan and lures Shere Khan to the edge of the village, where with the help of the bull elephants, he mortally wounds the tiger while Tabaqui flees. However, Lockwood accidentally injures Mowgli with a bullet while trying to kill the tiger and shoots Akela when the wolf saves Mowgli from Shere Khan. Lockwood is stopped and killed by Hathi before he can do more harm and the other animals rally to Mowgli upon seeing his resolve.
Akela gives Mowgli his blessing to lead the jungle's creatures and the wolf pack before he dies peacefully. Mowgli decides to leave the village behind and returns to the jungle, where he stabs the wounded Shere Khan, finally killing the tiger and ending his reign of terror. Mowgli is re-accepted as a member of the jungle. Kaa goes on to say that with Shere Khan and Lockwood gone, Mowgli gave the jungle a voice. As long as Mowgli lived and watched over it, there was peace in the jungle.
- Rohan Chand as Mowgli, a feral boy who is raised by wolves.
- Matthew Rhys as John Lockwood, a colonial hunter who hunts for trophies and comes to hunt Shere Khan.
- Freida Pinto as Messua, a woman who takes in Mowgli.
Voice and motion-capture cast
- Christian Bale as Bagheera, a black panther (Indian leopard) who is one of Mowgli's teachers and was born in human custody.
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger who has a crippled front leg and is Mowgli's arch-nemesis.
- Cate Blanchett as Kaa, a Indian Python who is the jungle's seer, one of Mowgli's mentors, and the narrator of the film.
- Tom Hollander as Tabaqui, a deranged striped hyena who is Shere Khan's companion and lieutenant.
- Andy Serkis as Baloo, a Himalayan brown bear/sloth bear (resembles the Asian Cave bear) who is one of Mowgli's teachers.
- Peter Mullan as Akela, an Indian wolf who is the leader of his pack.
- Naomie Harris as Nisha, an Indian wolf who is Mowgli's adopted mother.
- Eddie Marsan as Vihaan, an Indian wolf who is Mowgli’s adopted father.
- Jack Reynor as Brother Wolf, an Indian wolf who is the oldest and most loyal of Mowgli's wolf brothers.
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Hathi, a wise and benevolent Asian elephant who proves to be one of Mowgli's allies and turns out to'd lost half a tusk to John Lockwood.
- Louis Ashbourne Serkis as Bhoot, an albino Indian wolf cub in Akela's pack.
A number of writers, directors, and producers were connected with the film during its development. In April 2012, Warner Bros. Pictures announced that it was developing the film with Steve Kloves in talks to write, direct, and produce it. It was reported in December 2013 that Kloves would produce the film, and Alejandro González Iñárritu was in talks to direct, from a screenplay by Kloves' daughter Callie. However, in January 2014, Iñárritu left the project due to scheduling conflicts with Birdman and The Revenant. In February 2014, it was reported that Ron Howard was in talks to direct, and would produce the film with Brian Grazer through their Imagine Entertainment company. The next month it was announced that Andy Serkis would direct and produce the film with collaborator Jonathan Cavendish of The Imaginarium, and Serkis would also perform the role of Baloo. Production designer Gary Freeman, editor Mark Sanger, and costume designer Alexandra Byrne were hired.
In August 2014, Benedict Cumberbatch joined the film to voice the villain role of Shere Khan. Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, Eddie Marsan, Peter Mullan, and Rohan Chand were announced the following day. Jack Reynor was added to the cast in March 2015 as Mowgli's Brother Wolf. It was announced in April 2015 that Matthew Rhys was in talks to play the human role of John Lockwood. In May 2015, it was reported that Freida Pinto would be playing an unspecified live-action role along with Rhys and Chand, later confirmed to be Mowgli's adoptive mother.
The film, originally titled Jungle Book: Origins, was initially set for an October 2016 release by Warner Bros. In December 2014, Warner Bros. shifted the date to October 2017, allowing more time for further work on the visual effects. In April 2016, just before the wide release of Disney's The Jungle Book, the film's release date was moved to October 19, 2018. In October 2017, Andy Serkis revealed the working title of the film to be Mowgli: Tales from the Jungle Book. In December, the official title was changed to Mowgli. Serkis stated that the film would be "darker" and more "serious" in tone than previous Jungle Book adaptations, thus closer to that of Kipling's original works. In March 2018, Serkis said first footage would be released "very soon." The first trailer and a behind-the-scenes featurette premiered on May 21, 2018.
In July 2018, it was announced that Netflix had purchased the worldwide distribution rights of the film from Warner Bros., and would set a 2019 release date, including a theatrical 3D release. At the time of the announcement, Deadline Hollywood described the film as "over-baked and over-budget" and said it allowed Warner Bros. to avoid "Pan-like box office bomb headlines" and saved them millions of dollars for not needing to promote the film. Speaking of the move, Serkis stated:
"I'm really excited about Netflix for Mowgli. Now, we avoid comparisons to the other movie and it's a relief not to have the pressure. I've seen the 3D version, and it's exceptional, a different view from the 2D version, really lush and with great depth, and there will be some kind of theatrical component for that. What excites me most is the forward thinking at Netflix in how to present this, and the message of the movie. They understand this is a darker telling that doesn't fit it into a four quadrant slot. It's really not meant for young kids, though I think it's possible that 10 or above can watch it. It was always meant to be PG-13, and this allows us to go deeper, with darker themes, to be scary and frightening in moments. The violence between animals is not gratuitous, but it's definitely there. This way of going allows us to get the film out without compromise."
On November 7, 2018, Netflix released a new trailer for the film, announcing a new title change, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, as well as its limited theatrical release on November 29, 2018, and its subsequent streaming release on December 7, 2018. The film had its world premiere in Mumbai on November 25, 2018, the first time a Hollywood film premiered in India.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 53% based on 86 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The website's critical consenses reads, "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle brings impressive special effects to bear on the darker side of its classic source material, but loses track of the story's heart along the way." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 51 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a "C+" and wrote: "Too dark for kids, too tame for adults. Stunning effects, occasionally wretched motion-capture. The technology may be there, but that doesn't mean it's been utilized to its full, feeling powers. It's a coming-of-age story unable to push forward in all the ways that really matter." Similarly, The Atlantic's reviewer David Sims criticized the film for its weak visual effects and bland story; comparing it unfavorably to Jon Favreau's 2016 film The Jungle Book. By contrast, Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times praised Mowgli for incorporating the darker and more mature elements of Kiping's The Jungle Book. He also compared the film favorably to Disney's two family friendly Jungle Book iterations, describing Mowgli as "the movie equivalent of a whiskey chaser after a sugary shake."
Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com awarded Mowgli two stars, criticizing the film's motion capture effects and comparing the film unfavorably to Favreau's The Jungle Book. Olly Richards of Empire gave the film 2/5 stars, writing that "for all his ambition, Serkis can't find the right tone for Mowgli and it becomes a very confused beast, neither fun enough for all ages to enjoy nor complex enough to be the visceral, grown-up thriller he nudges at. The Observer's reviewer Wendy Ide awarded the film 3/5 stars, praising the film's visual and technical effects but opining that there was too much trauma and animal violence to attract family audiences.
David Fear of Rolling Stone gave the film 3/5 stars, describing Mowgli as "a harsher, darker, more CGI-heavy look at 'The Jungle Book'." While criticizing the film's CGI effects, Fear praised Christian Bale, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Cate Blanchett for their voicework as Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan, and Kaa. Michael Sullivan of The Washington Post awarded the film 4/5 stars, praising Andy Serkis for combining motion capture animation with live action footage while cautioning parents not to watch it with their kids due to its adult themes and violence.
Rohan Naahar of the Hindustan Times awarded Mowgli 4/5 stars, praising Serkis for delivering "a nuanced, visually dazzling update of the Jungle Book for Netflix." While praising the film for its technical effects and mature themes, Naahar expressed disappointment with the under-representation of Indians in the main cast apart from Freida Pinto. Collider's Matt Goldberg described the film as a "blood-soak version of the Jungle Book." Goldberg criticized the film's level of violence and unsatisfactory CGI effects, giving the film a D rating.
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