The first trailer for Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle has landed, giving us a darker and more dangerous adaptation of the beloved story collection by Rudyard Kipling. If this feels awfully familiar, it’s likely due to the fact that we just had a live-action version of the story hit theaters in 2016. Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book grossed nearly $1 billion and received a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While the film’s massive success makes it a tough act to follow, there’s a lot to look forward to in Mowgli.
While the creatures in Favreau’s film were CGI creations, director Andy Serkis used motion capture for Mowgli. This is hardly surprising, as Serkis has built a career as one of the most prolific mo-cap actors ever, most notably in his role as Gollum in the Lord of The Rings franchise. Serkis discussed the process in an interview with io9, saying:
“So, the thought of creating a photorealistic tiger and then plunking a voice-overed voice on top of that, for me, was never going to fly. Talking animals are very hard to pull off. You can make it look good, but it has to feel—they have to feel and be alive and have soul. So, performance capture was the routine, and obviously, I’m not a stranger to it, and it’s something I’ve been working with for many years.”
“We very carefully, in a long development period, designed the animals to fit the actor’s faces … We morphed Christian’s [Bale] face over a series of images, backwards from the panther and towards Christian until we reached a sweet spot where somewhere along that spectrum you could actually see both. So, it was in the design of the animals. That was where the secret lies.”
Serkis, who plays Baloo in the film, is joined by an all-star cast that includes Christian Bale as Bagheera, Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan, and Cate Blanchett as Kaa. Mowgli also features Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) as a woman that Mowgli (Rohan Chand) encounters when he leaves the jungle.
Mowgli’s return to the human world is a departure from the stories, as is the film’s focus on the evils of colonialism as personified by Matthew Rhys’s (The Americans) character John Lockwood (who shares the same name as Kipling’s real-life father, John Lockwood Kipling). It’s refreshing to see an adaptation that deals with the more political themes, as Kipling was notoriously racist and grew up in British-controlled India.
Serkis said of Kipling, “He’s a much beloved novelist, and author and poet—but others believe him to be a child of the British Empire and therefore potentially, racist, in a sense. So the conflict within the writer himself, and the conflict within the timeline in which the book was written, is sort of doubly layered into our version of the story.”
Mowgli will have a limited release in theaters on November 29th, and will premiere on Netflix on December 7th.
(via io9, image: screengrab)
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