Despite the fact that a live-action adaption of “The Jungle Book” already came out just two years ago, one look at the cast list was enough to convince me that I should give Netflix’s “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” a try. With the likes of Andy Serkis, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch all providing voices to the jungle creatures that make up the bulk of the characters in the story, this movie was guaranteed to be tolerable at least, and the strongest adaption of the classic tale at best.
It is obvious from the first few scenes of the movie that this adaption is darker than the previous two, when the bone-chilling Shere Khan, voiced by Cumberbatch, announces to the wolf pack that his plan to hunt Mowgli until the man-cub’s blood will “run down his chin.” Mowgli’s status as an outcast and the brutality of nature are also on full display throughout the film. While at times difficult to watch, this is what distinguished this adaption of the story from others in my eyes.
Unfortunately, the movie also gets bogged down in details that are not very consequential to the story. For example, the detailed descriptions of jungle law and the hierarchy of the wolf pack were tedious and overwrought. It also takes away from the heart of the story, and none of the characters are particularly well-rounded. I think the writers depended too much on the audience caring for the characters out of nostalgia for the original story, and in doing so neglected to develop any of them beyond a passing familiarity. As a child, I was not particularly attached to Rudyard Kipling’s story, and I found the previous live-action remake intensely forgettable, so that gamble was lost on me.
While I appreciate how this adaption explored the darker side of the story, there are glaring flaws in this movie that simply do not work. While in my opinion, this film is the more entertaining of the two live-action adaptations that audiences have been offered in the past two years, it was ultimately an unnecessary take on a story that, despite no less than three screen adaptations that I have seen, has yet to break any new ground.