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Review: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
8 10

PLOT: Mowgli (Rohan Chand) survives the massacre of his parents and is taken under the wing of a wolf pack roaming the jungle, while he’s trained by Bagheera (Christian Bale) and Baloo (Andy Serkis) to survive in this harsh, unforgiving world. But, will he be able to deny his true nature as a “man-cub”?

REVIEW: After years on the shelf, Andy Serkis’s dark interpretation of “The Jungle Book," MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE, finally sees the light of day. Originally set for a massive release fitting it’s tentpole budget, MOWGLI was unexpectedly sold to Netflix at the eleventh hour. Now, usually when this happens it’s for one of two reasons. Either the film is so bad it’s deemed unreleasable, or commercial prospects are so bleak, throwing more money at it doesn’t make sense.

In this case, it’s certainly the latter. MOWGLI is in no way a bad film. However, it’s a stunningly dark take on the material, and releasing it theatrically, especially after the more traditional Disney version grossed a billion dollars worldwide, would have spelled disaster for the studio. For one thing, kids would not only have hated it, they would have been traumatized. Serkis’s movie is so grim it starts with wolves licking the blood of Mowgli’s mother off his infant body, and that’s nothing compared to what comes later.

Remember the scene in THE NEVERENDING STORY where Atreyu the horse drowns in the Swamps of Sadness? That’s nothing compared to a traumatizing moment in the third act involving a trophy hunter (Matthew Rhys) that’s so dark it’ll curdle your blood. It’s like something out of FIRST REFORMED or HEREDITARY (maybe A24 should have picked this up!). It’s among the grimmest, most sadistic moments in a mainstream film since THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, and most certainly is the moment that doomed this to a Netflix release, although the film wouldn’t have worked without it. One can’t deny it gives the film real impact, but truth be told, it shook me up so much I hard a hard time focusing on the climax.

Basically, what you are left with is a version of The Jungle Book that’s aimed at teens and adults, but neither group would have turned-up to see this in theatres, despite the A-list mo-cap cast, including Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett. One thing worth noting is how different the animals look here in comparison to the Disney film. An effort has been made to give the animals the human faces of their off-screen counterparts, an effect that’s alternately inspired and unnerving (and takes a while to get used to). Still, it can’t be denied that the CGI creatures here look…well…like CGI. In the Jon Favreau JUNGLE BOOK, they looked like real animals, and in that regard this MOWGLI is always going to be second class. It is what it is.

All that said, Serkis has made a distinctly different, radical take on the material, and certainly I’ve never seen another so-called “family” movie quite like it. In that regard, it’s utterly intriguing and while the CGI isn’t as convincing, Serkis’s movie trumps the other one in several important ways. For one, I think Rohan Chand is the best on-screen Mowgli to date, giving a legitimately great performance, being able to convey more depth thanks to the meatiness of the material. I also liked the fact that Serkis opened things up to include the human world, which gives this something to really differentiate itself from the Disney versions, and brings it more in line with Rudyard Kipling.

Despite the pre-release narrative, Andy Serkis’s MOWGLI is nowhere near a disaster, at least not an artistic one. It’s a very well-done film, albeit a wildly uncommercial, even traumatizing one that makes it an automatic pass if you have young kids. But, if you don’t mind a heavy dose of darkness is your family entertainment, give it a look. Its well-worth checking out.

Source: JoBlo.com

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