TL;DR – While at times this film has moments of technical brilliance, huge issues with tone, and a story we already know to death means that the film ends up being just dull.
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
There are warning signs in the industry that happens sometimes that lets you know a studio is not really confident with what they are about to release. This could be not screening it for critiques,or putting an embargo on reviews before release, or in this day and age it is a film suddenly disappearing from the cinema schedule and being sold off to Netflix. Now, this is not always a case of it being a bad film, just a case of the distributors not knowing what they have, see this year’s Annihilation(see review). However,today we look at a film that probably falls squarely into this category.
Soto set the scene, it is the same Jungle Book plot line that you have seen before. As people run screaming through the forests we see Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) well more hear him kill Mowgli’s (Rohan Chand) parents and he would have killed him too if Bagheera (Christian Bale) had not intervened and saved the boy. He brings Mowgli to Nisha (Naomie Harris) and Vihaan (Eddie Marsan) wolves with a litter of cubs to raise, but Shere Khan is not happy and it takes pressure from the leader of the wolf pack Akela (Peter Mullan) to get him to leave. Over time Mowgli is raised but the wolves, Bagheera, and Baloo (Andy Serkis) to be a wolf, but he is neither a wolf nor a man-cub. Add to this, the men are taking more and more of the forest, and ShereKhan is breaking jungle law to force the wolves’ hands because he wants what he wants. But Kaa (Cate Blanchett) a python with an ulterior motive is also out in the forest lurking, waiting to see who falls into her trap.
Now while there are a lot of issues with the film, there is also a lot of things that it gets right too, and indeed there are some really beautiful moments at times. While there are some issues with the computer generated backgrounds at times, it is clear that a lot of work has gone into making all the digitally created animals feel fully formed. There are moments when it is at night and raining,and you see the light from the fire glint off each strand of Bagheera’s black fur. There is also a scene where they are celebrating the Hindu celebration of Holiand there is the beautiful use of colour and motion. At first, it is a celebration and full of joy, but it shifts as the night goes on, and it is just wonderfully framed. Also, I have to give full credit to Rohan Chand who had to carry so much of the film being one of the only human actors on screen most of the time so instantly becoming the audience surrogate. This would be a difficult role for any actor, let alone someone so young, and he pulls it off completely.
However, while there are these moments of technical brilliance, they don’t outshine a lot of the other issues that are found throughout the film, and from here there will be [SPOILERS]. The first major issue of the film is the tone, and it is all over the place. The film gives Mowgli a sidekick character in the form of Bhoot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), as a sort of cheerleader mixed with fellow outcast status as he is an albino wolf. This is straight out of the kid’s film playbook, but this also exists in a film where Shere Khan straight up tortures Mowgli, and you get this complete tonal dissonance. This is even before we get to the point where the film kills Bhoot and mounts his head as a trophy in the hunter’s (Matthew Rhys) cabin. The film adds this weird dynamic by giving Shere Khan a sidekick in the form of Tabaqui (Tom Hollander) which while coming from the source material, just amplified the weird colonial feel that was throughout this film.
This is all compounded by the fact that this just feels like a completely unnecessary film because we, unfortunately, got a similar and much better film from Disney two years ago. Because even though that film in itself felt unnecessary,at least it could dive into the Bare Necessities. Here the film is both desperately trying to do something different,whilst also maintaining to as close to the Disney style story as they could.This means the film has no unique voice for most of its run time, and when it does try something, it does not fit with the rest of the film. All of this ends up leading to me having no emotional attachment to anyone in the film, which was not at all helped by the plodding pace.
In the end, do we recommend Mowgli:Legend of the Jungle? No sorry, not really. Look if you already have Netflix then it is not going to cost you anything to watch it other than your time,which probably helps the film, but your time is probably best spent elsewhere.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations,or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
Directed by – Andy Serkis
Screenplay by – Callie Kloves
Based on – The Jungle Book and other works by Rudyard Kipling
Music by – Nitin Sawhney
Cinematography by – Michael Seresin
Edited by – Mark Sanger, Alex Marquez & Jeremiah O’Driscoll
Starring – Rohan Chand, Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Andy Serkis, Peter Mullan, Matthew Rhys, Freida Pinto, Naomie Harris, Eddie Marsan, Jack Reynor & Louis Ashbourne Serkis
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na;Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13