By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
From actor/director Andy Serkis, comes a darker and more serious take on Rudyard Kipling’s stories than either of the Disney adaptations. After being held back for post-production work and to wait for a more ideal time of release, this movie is now not only available for viewing in some theaters, it is also available for streaming on Netflix. Though Serkis’s version does have its thrilling and compelling moments, the movie simply lacks the overall entertainment value of other previous adaptations. So, unfortunately, now that Mowgli is finally available, the final product proves that it just wasn’t worth the long wait.
As in the original story and other adaptations, the “man cub” Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is an orphaned Indian child adopted by a pack of wolves. Mentored and guided by pack leader Akela (Peter Mullan), the black panther Bagheera (Christian Bale) and bear Baloo (Andy Serkis), Mowgli has yet to prove himself ready to survive in the jungle as an adult. He must especially train hard, as the vicious tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) hopes to finally attack and capture Mowgli as his prey. After the young child fails another survival test, Bagheera realizes that he must be returned to humanity to live the rest of his years.
Based on All The Mowgli Stories by Rudyard Kipling, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is indeed a darker and more visceral affair, but it is a movie that the filmmakers took way too seriously. Now, I am sure there are Kipling fans who despise the jaunty musical Disney adaptations, but Andy Serkis and screenwriter Callie Kloves took a way too somber approach to the material. Despite the thrilling and tense action sequences it does have, the movie is lacking a lot of heart, joy and some comedy. Though the film does have some gorgeous visuals, the poorly rendered CGI often distracts as an eye sore.
The best thing about the film, however, is ther superb cast assembled for it. In addition to his directorial duties, Serkis also voices the character Baloo. Much different from the Disney versions, Baloo here acts more like a tough, disciplined drill sergeant. Serkis has the perfect edginess in his voice for this take on the character. Christian Bale also gives Bagheera his perfect growl, but also gives the panther a more gentle whisper. As the hypnotic and creepy python Kaa, Cate Blanchett gives the character her silky, regal vocals.
Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as the voice of the ferociously mean Shere Khan. As for the humans, young Rohan Chand performs well as the tough and defiant Mowgli. Matthew Rhys and Freida Pinto both offer solid work in their respective roles. Other voice actors include Naomi Harris, Peter Mullan, Jack Reynor, Tom Hollander, Eddie Marsan, and Louis Ashbourne Serkis. All of whom offer great work.
It is, however, a shame that the wonderful cast had to be in a not-so-wonderful movie. Though I didn’t completely hate Mowgli, I just found the story mostly bland and the movie itself in need of better CGI effects. It is a film that I do not recommend at all for theatrical viewing. If one has Netflix, it makes for an okay movie to pass the time.