Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Rudyard Kipling's work has been adapted to film numerous times over the years. While some enjoyed Disney's 2016 live-action version of their earlier animated film, the mix of a realistic look with Disney sensibilities (animals that both sang and danced and then brutally murdered) didn't work for me.

Delayed because of the Disney release, Andy Serkis' version feels a bit more on point (and far more tonally consistent). The actor, who made a name for himself as one of the most famous CGI performers over the years, delivers a vibrant film making the most out of continued advancements of motion capture techniques. The film doesn't run from the dangers of the jungle, or try to make the animals into cute sidekicks to sell toys and merchandise to younger viewers.

The story follows Kipling's basic plot of a human baby raised by wolves. After brief set-up introducing Mowgli (Rohan Chand) to the tribe, the film jumps forward several years catching up with the man-cub when he's old enough to begin questioning his world and his place in it.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle covers a number of threats to Mowgil including the question of where the boy belongs, his undecided future hinted at by the hypnotic python Kaa (Cate Blanchett), and the tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) whose vicious attacks not only killed Mowgli's parents but also continue to endanger the animal population by pushing to larger conflict with the human settlement just outside the jungle.

The film isn't without some issues. Mowgli's time in the human settlement, given the ramifications that it causes, feels far too truncated, and we never get to know Lockwood (Matthew Rhys), Messua (Freida Pinto), or any of the unnamed children in the human settlement as anything more than one-note characters. The animals fare far better as Christian Bale, Cumberbatch, Serkis, Blanchett, Naomie Harris, and Peter Mullan all help fill the jungle with vibrant characters whose futures rest on the destiny of a single man-cub.

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