Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle – Summary/ Review (with Spoilers)

Mowgli Legend of the Jungle - Title Card (2)
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Neither geared towards children nor perhaps any particular audience, despite finally being released, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle still seems in limbo.


Director(s) Andy Serkis
Written By Callie Kloves
Date Released 12/7/2018
Genre(s) Action, Adventure
Good If You Like Dark Version Of Childhood Tales
Noted Cast
Shere Khan Benedict Cumberbatch
Bagheera Christian Bale
Mowgli Rohan Chand
Baloo Andy Serkis
Tabaqui Tom Hollander
Akela Peter Mullan
Kaa Cate Blanchett
Bhoot Louis Ashbourne Serkis
Lockwood Matthew Rhys

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Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle‘s Plot (Ending on 2nd Page)

After Shere Khan murdered his parents, a panther named Bagheera, formerly domesticated, took pity on Mowgli. He arranged for a local wolf clan to take him in and being that he was a member of the pack, it was considered and accepted. However, as Mowgli grew, so came fears of Shere Khan finishing what he started and the question of whether Mowgli could pass the pack’s trials – which meant Bagheera hunting him, and his “siblings,” like prey.

Something Bagheera doesn’t have much faith in so he tries to push Mowgli to integrate into the local human village. However, with him being raised wolf, Mowgli has little to no interest. So, with Baloo as his teacher, because why wouldn’t a bear teach wolves to survive in the jungle, he plans to stay in the pack and pass the trials.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. How would a bear and panther join a wolf pack?

Highlights

Rohan Chand’s Performance

Mowgli (Rohan Chand) with his mouth agape.
Mowgli (Rohan Chand)

I believe you have to acknowledge the fact this young actor, with less than 7 credits under his belt, made for a compelling lead. Yes, his performance didn’t save the film from what it ultimately is, but take into consideration he’s mostly working with CGI. That means, he had to play off what wasn’t there for the entire film and make bonds with either inanimate objects or people in costume. All the while knowing he is taking on an iconic character and the pressures which come with that.

A job which he ultimately does well. Maybe not to the point of being the next big thing, but you can certainly foresee this becoming one of many starring roles in his future. Especially if he works with the right people.

The Way Lockwood Was Handled

Lockwood is a colonizer. Plain and simple. Also, he is a colonizer who is a poacher. So it made me glad that while he was treated as a benevolent figure, at first, eventually he was shown as someone who deserved the same fate as Shere Khan. Even if he was human.

Criticism

Yes, It Is Darker Than The Disney Tale, But What Does It Offer Beyond That?

Mowgli (Rohan Chand) after Shere Khan cut into him with his claw.
Mowgli (Rohan Chand)

Between blood, us seeing animals and humans killed, and the constant threat of death, what does this film offer that makes it noteworthy? Does the possibility of death push you to feel more for certain characters? No. How about Mowgli being an outsider in both the human and animal kingdom? Not really. Don’t get me wrong, Chand’s performance is certainly a highlight, but I can’t say he uplifted the writing enough to say I’d watch this again – for any reason.

Which I’m not saying just because the Disney tale was part of my childhood. More so, the issue with Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is that it is “dark” for the sake of just that. It’s like many a HBO program which has sex and violence because, well it makes things seem more mature and watercooler-worthy. So while the film may touch upon poaching and the effects mankind has on the animal kingdom, it doesn’t truly go deep enough to give it meaning. Making every violent act seem shallow and like an alarm clock to wake you up from the stupor the film often puts you in.

Something that, with this being a Netflix release, means constant temptation to make this film background noise as you do something that will actually be entertaining.

On The Fence

The CGI Gets Creepy Sometimes

A close up on Baloo's (Andy Serkis) face
Baloo (Andy Serkis)

While anthropomorphic CGI and animation is nothing new, the degree it is used in this film is unsettling. For whether it is Baloo’s face, which makes it look like he had a stroke, or the weirdness of the muscle movement of other characters, it is hard to not get creeped out. Yet, at the same time, it is hard to not be intrigued and experience some of the wonder people may have had when sci-fi started to become a huge genre.

For as weird as Baloo looks, you have to take note of everything beyond the face which looks so cool. Be it the way elephants look, how deranged the hyena character, Tabaqui, looks, and how you can see Serkis’ fingerprint on nearly every motion capture. Bringing about this feeling the CGI is a bit over the top yet this film also building anticipation for future movies which use the technology. Especially those who can figure out a good balance between realism and expression.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive) | Only on Netflix

Ultimately, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle feels unnecessary. In the pursuit of being dark, apparently closer to its source material, it feels like the main focus was more being anti-Disney to stand out than having a compelling story which has high stakes. And while Chand’s performance, and some aspects of the CGI, do balance the scale, it is never enough to say this will hold your attention if watching from home.

Hence the mixed label. Though this will certainly boost Chand’s profile into well-deserved roles, and renew interest in what CGI will bring in the future, such as Lion King (2019), on its own, it is similar to The Cloverfield Paradox. That is, a movie which, if released theatrically, would have bombed HARD. Yet, thanks to Netflix, it is held to a different standard and perhaps seems a bit better than it is. If only because you didn’t have to pay to see it individually.


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