Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, is a fresh take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Andy Serkis takes the beloved tale and puts his own unique spin on it. And while this movie is a little darker than some of the other adaptations, it’s also a lot closer to the book.
The plot of The Jungle Book is always constant in some ways. Mowgli is a human raised by wolves and trained in jungle law. He’s threatened by Shere Khan the tiger, who is afraid of humans and their fire. Someone always wants Mowgli to return to the man village, and Mowgli is then torn between the jungle and the Man-Village.
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Some adaptations end with Mowgli going to the Man-Village. Others end with him finding a way to bridge the two different worlds he’s a part of. Some play with the idea of man as the hunter and the main villain, while others paint Shere Khan as the only villain. The book is not so black and white, however, and neither is this film. Callie Kloves weaves a masterful screenplay.
As a fan of books, I’m always a little leery of the book to movie adaptations. I’ve been burned before. However, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle takes quite a bit from the source material. For starters, in the original story, Kaa is not a mindless killer snake. She’s a respected and feared keeper of the jungle law who acts as one of Mowgli’s teachers. I loved seeing this play out in the film. Kaa is the narrator throughout the story, and this was also a refreshing callback to the book.
I also appreciated the portrayal of the pack dynamics in this film. The pack dynamics and Shere Khan’s involvement in them were an important part of the book. In addition to that, the book has a different Baloo. He serves as a teacher to the cubs, raising them to respect and follow the jungle law. It was nice to see this in a film. I also loved that many lines in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle come directly from the book.
MUSIC and SOUND
Like in the other Jungle Book movies, the music in this film is breathtaking, arriving at the right moment to add intensity or sadness to the plot and it’s not overwhelming. Plus, weaved into the background are the sounds of the jungle. Overall, the sound design is just brilliant, taking you into the story in a wonderful way.
Something else that makes this film stand out is the talented voice cast. Cate Blanchett voices the wise and all-seeing Kaa, Christian Bale the panther Bagheera, Andy Serkis is a gruff Baloo, Tom Hollander is the weaselly jackal/hyena Tabaqui, and Benedict Cumberbatch is the menacing voice behind Shere Khan. The CGI that blends these voices with the characters is quite impressive, as the team used motion-capture technology to make the characters feel real.
The other cast members are just as talented. Rohan Chand’s Mowgli is the kind of character you want to root for. A fearless boy caught between two worlds. As he struggles, you want him to find his place in the world and triumph.
Finally, the backgrounds and sets are beautiful. The movie is worth a watch just for that.
Although I thought everything in this movie was wonderful, it was the relationships between all the characters that got me. Mowgli’s relationships with Bagheera, Bhoot, Meesua, Akela, Nisha, Grey Brother, and Lockwood were particularly powerful in unique ways. Each of those characters impacts Mowgli’s life somehow and help him along his journey. It’s when Mowgli tries to strike out on his own that things go badly for him, and he needs to rely on those around him for help. In turn, they rely on him.
Had someone told me that the Andy Serkis adaptation of The Jungle Book was going to be one of my favorite movies of the year and that I was was going to cry several times, I would have laughed. And yet, that is exactly what happened. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle takes storytelling risks and I think it paid off. They changed some aspects of the old story, but in other ways, it remained true to the spirit of Kipling’s stories.
If you enjoy adaptations of The Jungle Book, coming-of-age stories, or stories where someone rises above seemingly insurmountable odds to change their world, you will probably enjoy Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. There are some stories that can be retold multiple times and still have something fresh to offer. Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is one of those stories.
Content Warning: This is a PG-13 movie. There are several fight scenes, some gruesome injuries, and anyone who is afraid of snakes should be aware that Kaa plays a large role.
“You had me at hello.”
Have you seen Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle? Which is your favorite adaptation? Let me know in the comments!
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