The Legend of the Jungle surpasses Disney’s The Jungle Book

Disney’s live-action remake of the 2016 classic 1967 The jungle Book The animated film does honor its source material in some ways, but it also lacks something that many Disney films lack. The original 1967 animated film, The jungle Book, is itself a radical departure from his own source material, the 1894 collection of short stories by Rudyard Kipling.

However, there is another adaptation of the original short story collection that turned out to be Disney’s competition. The Warner Bros. Movie, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018), sold to Netflix. The motion capture star directed the film Andy SerkisThis film was originally announced well before Disney’s remake was confirmed, but Disney beat them and released its film first, resulting in the Netflix film being tragically showered with groans of indifference from viewers and critics who felt to have seen him before.


The Jungle Book 2015
Image via Disney

They didn’t. There are of course many similarities to the Disney film and Mowglimainly because the remake took more elements from the source material than the original animation, but Mowgli is not the happy adventure film that is the Disney competitor. The jungle Book is a Disney film, after all, and Serki’s jungle epic is a much darker, scarier, and even more disturbing version of the original Kipling anthology. So much so that it’s probably not even suitable for children. There’s grit, violence, death and even brutality in a way that befits the original stories with serious, adult themes.

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There’s even one particular scene that probably traumatized a lot of kids. The jungle is harsh and unforgiving, filled with raw combat and conflict that references the cruel law of the wild to which the Disney film paid lip service but never embraced in its visceral glory. The animals that live within are truly animals, capable of great ferocity, threat, anger, and hatred, yet somehow loving and compassionate through the turmoil and ruthlessness of nature. In this untamed world there is an almost admirable quality of honor.

Image via Netflix

Mowgli feels more like an old classic. Rather than just being a cute adventure story, it really feels like something based on classic British literature from over a century ago. Part of that lies in the characters themselves. While the Disney film is dedicated to creating realistic animals, it may suffer from the issues that plagued Disney’s 2019 live-action remake The Lion King — Animal characters that do not visually show human emotions. Mowgli focuses on bringing humanity into the animals – sometimes to an uncanny degree – by emphasizing their emotions in expressive facial structures, pushing realism aside to allow the talking animals to assume their proper roles as characters. You can also see the faces of the real actors behind the CGI and that definitely gives them more personality.

The film is held up by an all-star cast for its animal characters, who somehow bring out the extraordinary sophistication of these creatures. Any voice given to the film’s animal cast is certainly British, and that’s exactly what a film based on classic Hindu-British literature needed.

  • Christian Balle Votes Bagheera, who somehow manages to easily replace Ben Kingsley in the role of the wise black panther with so much more emotion. His relationship with Mowgli is a less strict teacher and more protective older brother, and his character’s backstory is more elaborate than that of his Disney counterpart.
  • The film’s director, Andy Serkis, also plays Baloo the Bear, who, with his heavy Cockney accent and tough personality, is much more gruff and serves more as a drill sergeant, grooming the younger wolves. He is proud of his work and his wolves.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch is Shere Khan, who once again demonstrates his unnatural affinity for voicing creepy characters with snarling voices, and plays the role with so much more savagery and menace than Idris Elba‘s more sophisticated villain, snarling every word with deep hatred.
  • Cate Blanchett fittingly plays the once-female incarnation of Kaa, the giant python, and in contrast to that Scarlett Johansson version, the character here functions as a storyteller and chronicler with a genuine fascination with the events taking place, rather than a chance encounter who pointlessly exposes her prey. There is a supernatural implication to their mythic status in the jungle.
  • Serkis’ son Louis Serkis, cast Bhoot, an original character. He is Mowgli’s incredibly adorable best friend, the albino wolf, and his relationship with Mowgli, based on their mutual anomalies in their families, serves to enrich both characters and influence Mowgli’s later growth.
  • Peter Mullan speaks Akela, the leader of Mowgli’s wolf family, who exudes ancient knowledge and also plays a much larger and more emotional role than his short-lived Disney counterpart.
  • Naomi harris speaks Mowgli’s wolf mother, who unfortunately plays a much smaller role than her Disney counterpart and even seems to be forgotten towards the end. The film could have afforded to be longer and fleshed them out more, especially considering it wasn’t even two hours long, suggesting some heavy cuts here and there might have taken place.
  • Last but not least, Rohan Chand plays Mowgli, and different Neel SethiChand’s portrayal in the Disney film is a wilder version of the once-squeaky-clean wild boy who throws himself into the role with so much animal energy. It really shows that he was raised by wolves, and the film even shows how that evolution took place as we explored the jungle culture that Mowgli is growing up in. This also manifests in better acting, which flawlessly brings out a level of ferocity not typically found in most child actors. Unlike Disney’s version Chands Mowgli is more flawed, more emotionally intense, and sometimes more tragic. Not only that, he’s as dirty and unkempt as a wild boy, while Chand’s Mowgli is clean, spotless, and visibly less like he belongs.

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. A major issue is the clear attempt to preserve the integrity of the original writing in some form, which can make dialogue sound awkward at times. But then there are the character designs. To give the characters a more human look, the animals have human-like eyes and somewhat cartoonish faces. While this works to the film’s benefit most of the time, it can come across as a sore thumb. In any case, the VFX are very noticeable in places, especially with the wolves. When viewers switch from a very real animal like a domesticated cow to an obvious CG wolf seconds later, it can easily break the immersion. High resolution benefits these character designs here to bring out the details. It’s fascinating how Mowgli has the more realistic animals with less realistic VFX, whereas The jungle Book has the more realistic VFX with the less realistic animals.


But what the movie does making things look better is authenticity. While it would be nice if the film were shot in India, it was shot in South Africa, using different real-world environments at times to create a far more believable setting, while the Disney film was shot almost entirely on a studio soundstage. Mowgli has some real environments that a story like this really needed. Also, even the CGI environments in the film are beautiful, so it’s a shame that realism couldn’t be reproduced so often with all animals.

Speaking of “really,” the human is given a much greater emphasis, the other human characters. This gives a nice insight into traditional Indian culture while adding a welcome touch of realism to a story full of CGI talking animals to see more people. Not to mention, these people also bring a lot of heart to the film, as Mowgli spends time with them and embraces the human culture he never had, something he embraces after fleeing the jungle in shame when he saw fire used to drive away Shere Khan makes him fear the wolves.

However, the film invites the viewer to wonder how humanity compares to the ruthless wilderness. Is it as comfortable as it seems? Or does this world also have monsters? The film manages to explore this without demonizing the human world at the expense of Hindu cultures like the Disney remake does with its almost supernatural and demonic depiction of civilization as something terrifying and overwhelming.

Perhaps the only issue here is British hunter John Lockwood, named after Rudyard’s father John Lockwood Kipling, who is portrayed as a drunk and merry killer of animals for sport (something we’re told is an affront to jungle law), who meets an untimely death at the end of the film. This move was far from respectful when the real man was far from the character he is portrayed as. An unnecessary ingredient, because the hunter’s name in the book was Buldeo.

Mowgli with wolves

While nothing legendary, the film’s soundtrack is definitely more impressive as well with its heavier Hindu cultural influence giving the film so much more personality than just being a bombastic action score track. The Disney film gets the iconic songs, but that’s a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison as this film isn’t a feel-good musical. All of these aspects and more give the film a unique personality that sets it apart from Disney’s distinctly “American” version of the Indian story.

The inherent nature of original 1890s stories, particularly in terms of writing style, makes them incompatible with the cinematic medium – even more so for modern audiences – without taking liberties in translation. Though it’s much closer to the legend than the Disney film and certainly the watch of choice for fans of the source material. If you can get over the sometimes animal appearances and undeservedly short length, it’s certainly a richer, more nuanced, and more interesting film.

Had this film been more successful, it might have set a precedent for more authentic adaptations of the original stories on which classic Disney animated films are based, and made Netflix or Warner Bros. interesting competitors for Disney and their approach to recreating earlier inaccurate adaptations in Live -Action. For example, Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dameor Daniel P. Mannix’s The fox and the dog (1967), who rid themselves of the “Disney fiction” of these classics by adapting them with all their dark heart and soul.

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https://collider.com/netflix-mowgli-legend-of-the-jungle-bests-disney-the-jungle-book/ The Legend of the Jungle surpasses Disney’s The Jungle Book

Isaiah Colbert

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