Mowgli -- Another run at The Jungle Book

Yes, I know The Jungle Book isn’t just Mowgli but at least this one makes clear who the focus will be in its title. Billing itself as “the darkest adaptation”, it will hopefully feature fewer singing animals and maybe fewer creative liberties although the brief appearance of Kaa in the early trailer looks like the poor snake is being shoved into an antagonist role again. Looks like more focus on his life among humans although the pack meeting, kidnapping by the Bandar-log, etc are all there.

The trailer

I’m one of those grumps who always felt that the noble, wise and powerful beasts of the book were done wrong by Disney and want to see them redeemed. Maybe those Brits will treat Kipling better. I recently read the Mowgli stories and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi to my son who really enjoyed them although this film looks not entirely suitable for seven year olds.

Huh. I wonder if they will adapt the story from the original book where Mowgli massacres an entire pack of “red dogs” by luring them into range of a gigantic beehive, so they all get stung to death.

That was damned weird, and very, very dark!

Edit: not sure if that is Kaa in the trailer, or the gigantic cobra from The King’s Ankus (who was, sort of, an antagonist).

Huh, I just saw the trailer once last week (before Solo, I think) and I was wondering if it was some kind of sequel to the most recent Disney movie. Mowgli looked older, and I thought maybe it was about him being unable to re-integrate into the human village and going back to the Jungle (I never read the Kipling stories). If it’s another re-telling of the same story - albeit darker and more faithful to the source - I wonder if this shouldn’t have been shelved for a few more years. It seems too soon after the last one.

The dhole. I’ve been intrigued by them ever since I read the Jungle Books as a young child. The one thing I’ve disliked about most cinematic attempt is making Kaa a bad guy - stupid ophidiophobia :mad:.

I believe this film was made years ago but actually got shelved to avoid competition with the Disney film. So it seems oddly soon now but that’s better than the whole “two identical movies at one time” thing.

In the book, Mowgli returns to his people and lives among them for a time before killing Shere Khan. Then he is called a demon and leaves them to return to the jungle again. So the civilisation scenes may reflect that and still keep time for the well known core bits.

Did anyone mention it’s dark?

I was intrigued by the killer bees - this article reminded me of that story!

That article seems to miss the point. Most people’s understanding of the story comes from two Disney movies (one a cartoon) with singing and often buffoonish animals. This version is “gritty” but not so much “We’re gritter than Kipling RRWAR!!!” but rather “This isn’t Disney kid stuff”.

Snakes suck. Deal with it. The only reason I read The Jungle Book is so that I can relive Rikki murderizing Nag and Nagina. :smiley: And the krait which I had never heard of.

I’m cheering for this movie mainly because I want Andy Serkis to do well as a director.

Feh - that mongoose was a little suckass, always trying to barter homicidal favors for treats. How can anyone respct that? :wink:

Now, Mowgli - he knew how to be respectful to cobras and everyone emerged happy:

“*We be of one blood, ye and I,” said Mowgli, quickly giving the Snake’s Call. He could hear rustling and hissing in the rubbish all round him and gave the Call a second time, to make sure.

“Even ssso! Down hoods all!” said half a dozen low voices (every ruin in India becomes sooner or later a dwelling place of snakes, and the old summerhouse was alive with cobras). “Stand still, Little Brother, for thy feet may do us harm.” *

From Kaa’s Hunting.

Andy Serkis has a version of the trailer with his commentary (and a featurette) on IMDb. A few take-aways:

[li]The “gritty” intent is to capture the feel of Kipling’s book[/li][li]The Bandar-log are, in the film, agents of Shere Khan (unlike the book)[/li][li]Kaa is presented as a sort of aged prophet which actually IS in the spirit of Kaa in the book[/li][li]Baloo won’t be singing :smiley: As in the book, he’s presented as a hard teacher of the Law[/li][li]The animals are intentionally a bit “human” in the face because they felt it looked more ridiculous for a human voice to come from a totally realistic panther or wolf[/li][/ul]

Whatever. I’m sick of gritty and dark. It’s become a movie cliche.

My complaint - sorry it’s OT - about the upcoming Jumper spin-off “Impulse.” Someone can teleport anywhere they want, effortlessly, and guess what? That somehow sucks! Even the X-files lightened up occasionally, sheesh.

The “darker” version of The Jungle Book would be The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman :slight_smile: But I smile because, despite being set in the graveyard, it’s actually less adult than the original.

Not, I hasten to add, that it’s trying to be funny. It’s a legitimate re-make. As an author Neil Gaiman has never really moved on from “Young Adult” to Adult, even in his adult fiction.

The original book is pretty dark though so calling it cliche is like saying “Those Jane Austen adaptations have too much romance in them, what a cliche.”

It’s pity nobody has yet filmed Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill and the sequel Rewards and Fairies. The short stories in these books could easily be made into a TV series.

They deserve to be far better known. There are some pretty dark and complex stories there too, ending with the powerful The Tree of Justice.

Somehow all Kipling’s many stories set in England are less well-known, even though they include some of his very best.

[No real spoilers in this post but if anyone wants to post spoilers after this, go for it]

This wound up skipping a wide theatrical release and was picked up by Netflix instead. It’s… not great? The decision to motion-capture the actors faces onto the animals gives a weird and distracting effect. The preview video lauded this decision with “Why would you have these amazing actors and not see them act?” but the end result doesn’t work well and you wind up with animals that don’t quite look like animals and certainly don’t look like people – Jungle Book crossed with Island of Dr Moreau? Ok, that’s unfair but it still jumps to mind. On the other hand, putting a speaking mouth on a realistic animal never looks right either (see Bagheera in Disney’s CG movie) but maybe that would have seemed less weird.

The story kept reasonably close to the book, although there was a strange emphasis on a race to gain entry into the pack that ultimately doesn’t matter much since Mowgli’s actual leaving is about the same as in the book. The Bandar-log kidnapping is very brief which struck me as bizarre since its so iconic to the story. The British hunter acts as a mentor figure instead of being antagonistic to Mowgli’s mocking of his jungle tales. Other weird hooks just lay about like they had more ideas than they had screen time. Tabaqui is changed from jackal to hyena, maybe to make him different from the wolves or maybe to do that nervous cartoon hyena laugh.

On the plus side, Kaa was depicted well and I liked Baloo (though he was underused). And, again, the story stays fairly faithful to the first book. Plus no song & dance numbers. Overall, I wasn’t offended that I watched it but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you were just curious to see how well they followed Kipling. If I was waving a magic wand, I would have done away with the disturbing animated faces and used the “pack race” time for the Bander-log scene.

I finally got around to watching it last night and had largely the same reaction as you did. I didn’t hate it, and I’m glad that one director at least tried to capture the spirit of Kipling’s stories.

I should say from the outset that I love most of the Mowgli stories in The Jungle Books. Therefore, I had some issues with the way the story was adapted for the screen. Some spoilers to follow…

First, the characterizations and the mo-cap. Loved Baloo; I thought his motion capture was the most well-done, as he looked the most like the animal he was based upon. Shere Khan’s animation was done pretty well; I especially liked the lame paw (which gets overlooked a lot in prior incarnations), although it was never mentioned. The other animations were a bit too uncanny-valley for my tastes. Bagheera’s snout was a bit too pointy, and I don’t know what they did with Vihaan (Mowgli’s adopted father), but he looked awful.

On the voice front, I iiked Serkis’s Baloo. Giving him a working-class accent helped with the characterization and set him apart from the other animals. Kaa was fine, as were Nisha (Mowgli’s adopted mother) and Bhoot (a new character). I was disappointed with both Bagheera and Shere Khan, but maybe that’s just because I have always had voices for them in my head when I read the stories. In my opinion, Bagheera (as one of the “good guys”) should have a sonorous, even pleasant voice, but there needs to be real menace underneath. I don’t feel like Christian Bale ever really achieved either. Shere Khan should be just the opposite; aggression and anger with just a hint of his…cowardice?..underneath, and again, I didn’t think Cumberbatch got there. His voice was mostly pitched too high, which is a shame because he has a fantastic lower register.

As for the story, it was OK. Serkis said in an interview recently that the film was ultimately about being an outsider; about being different from everyone around you. This was certainly front and center, but book Mowgli comes to terms with his “outsider-ness” much differently than film Mowgli. One of the things I like about The Jungle Books is the way Mowgli grows up and leads his “pack,” but as a man, on his own terms. Film Mowgli stayed too much a boy, and a member of the pack. I’m thinking in particular how, as he grows in the books, his pack-mates and friends become afraid of him (they can’t look him in the eyes), and how he comes to realize the power that he wields as a man. Even Shere Khan, deep down, is afraid of him. The pack did too much rescuing of Mowgli in the film, not the other way around.

Maybe a minor thing, but I also think they botched one of the earliest scenes, where Shere Khan comes to claim the “man-cub,” from the wolves. Yes, the pack with Baloo and Bagheera faces him down and forces him away, but in Kipling’s story it is the mother wolf who sends him packing:

I missed this mother wolf, and I missed the contempt with which the pack treated Shere Khan, even while recognizing how dangerous he was.

Anyway, rambling. It was OK, but not, IMHO, as good as it could have been.