Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” has had several adaptations over the years, most notably from Disney, including the live action adaptation in 2016. At the time that Disney was working on that film, Warner Brothers began work on their own version of the story with Mowgli, and like the 2016 Disney film, is a mix of live action and CGI. Unlike the Disney film, this version has a much darker tone.
Like the classic tale, Mowgli tells of the man-cub, raised by wolves in India, learning the ways of the jungle thanks to Baloo the Bear and Bagheera the Panther, Mowgli becomes accepted by the animals of the jungle as one of their own, except for the fearsome tiger, Shere Khan, as well as coming face to face with his human origins.
Production began on the film in 2015, with various directors, which included Ron Howard, in talks to direct the film. In the end, Andy “The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy” Serkis was hired as the director, as well as playing the role of Baloo The Bear, adding to his list of roles via motion capture suits. The film was completed and scheduled to be released in October 2016. Warner Brothers pushed the film release date in order to polish up on the special effects, as well as distancing itself from Disney’s film, which was released that same year. The studio then set the film to be released in October of this year. Then it was recently announced that Warner Brothers, possibly fearing a flop, had sold all worldwide rights to Netflix, who will release the film in 2019. The streaming giant also has plans to release the film theatrically, including a 3D release, as well as having it available for streaming.
Serkis was quoted on the move from Warner Brothers to Netflix:
“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.“
The cast of Mowgli is quite impressive, in addition to Serkis performing Baloo, Christian “Batman Begins” Bale performs Bagheera, Peter “Ozark” Mullan is the wolf leader, Akela, Naomie “Rampage” Harris is Mowgli’s adoptive wolf mother, Nisha, Cate “Lord Of The Rings” Blanchete is Kaa the serpent, and Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch is Shere Khan, all of the actors performing their roles via motion capture suits. Playing the role of Mowgli is Rohan Chand, Matthew “The Americans” Rhys plays John Lockwood (named after John Lockwood Kipling, the father of Rudyard Kipling), and Freida “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” Pinto is Messua, a human who, in the Kipling stories, adopted Mowgli, thinking he was her long lost son.
In addition to Serkis directing, Steve Kloves, Jonathan Cavendish, and David Barron produced the film with Nikki Penny serving as executive producer. Kloves daughter, Callie, wrote the screenplay, which, of course, was based on the works of Rudyard Kipling.
A final release date has not yet been announced. In the meantime, check out the trailer above, and tell us what you think of this particular adaptation of the classic.
Gary DaBaum, SCIFI.radio DJ, writer, and all around nice guy, can be heard on SCIFI.radio. He’s also on Twitter: @GaryDaBaum.