The Jon Favreau-directed The Jungle Book has now opened to widespread positive reviews and a domestic box office opening weekend gross that exceeded $100 million – something that is good news for Walt Disney Studios, but not per se welcome news for Warner Bros. Pictures. WB, as it were, also has a digital effects-heavy film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book literature in the pipeline, with motion-capture expert Andy Serkis directing and Callie Kloves (the daughter-turned screenwriter of Harry Potter movie writer Steve Kloves) handling scripting responsibilities.
WB originally scheduled Serkis’ Jungle Book (previously referred to as Jungle Book: Origins) to reach theaters in Fall 2017, but more recently moved it back a year to October of 2018 – a move that Serkis applauded, saying that the film will benefit from additional post-production time as it is “breaking new ground with realistic non-humanoid animal faces” with its non-human characters (all of which were brought to life via mo-cap performance). It’s now being reported that the studio has reached out to one of its trusted filmmaking collaborators, to lend Serkis and his cast/crew an extra helping hand on their ambitious project.
Deadline is reporting that Oscar-winner Alfonso Cuarón, who previously helmed the WB-distributed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as well as Gravity (both of which were critical and commercial success, no less), has been recruited to help work on Serkis’ Jungle Book and “take the extra time to improve the picture.” The article emphasizes that principal photography on the film has already been completed and that Cuarón isn’t expected to receive any official credit for his contributions (outside of, say, a “special thanks to” in the film’s credits), lest anyone get the mistaken impression that Cuarón is now co-directing Serkis’ movie.
Recruiting Cuarón to lend his expertise and provide notes on Jungle Book makes sense right off the bat, seeing as the acclaimed filmmaker – after having spent several years bringing Gravity to convincing life on the big screen – more than his fair share of knowledge and experience about how to best make a film shot entirely on sound stages (against green/blue screen backdrops) and seeks to blend its live-action elements seamlessly with CGI environments and characters. Furthermore, there’s no denying that the success of Favreau’s Jungle Book (which likewise uses cutting-edge visual effects trickery to create its jungle scenery and inhabitants) has set the bar higher for Serkis’ own Kipling adaptation to clear, in order to justify its existence.
We’ve argued here at Screen Rant in the past that there is in fact room for multiple Jungle Book film adaptations in relatively close proximity to one another. For example, Serkis has described his own Jungle Book feature as being “quite a dark take” on the Kipling source material, suggesting it will not have as much in the way of whimsical touches (see: musical numbers carried over from Disney’s 1967 animated film version) and humor as that found in Favreau’s adaptation. There are certainly parallels between the casting selections for Serkis and Favreau’s movies – see: both feature versions of Kaa voiced by women (Cate Blanchett and Scarlett Johansson, respectively) as well as versions of Shere Khan that are brought to life by acclaimed British actors (Benedict Cumberbatch and Idris Elba, respectively) – but Serkis’ movie will also include a number of characters from Kipling’s literature that didn’t make the cut in Favreau’s Jungle Book, such as the untrustworthy Tabaqui the golden jackal (Tom Hollander).
That being said: while Serkis’ Jungle Book could feasibly offer a very different (yet, in many ways, just as good if not better) interpretation of Kipling’s source material as Favreau’s version, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the filmgoing masses will be interested in seeing yet another Jungle Book film so soon. A sequel to Favreau’s Jungle Book is on the horizon too, so some moviegoers may elect to instead just wait and go watch Favreau/Disney’s The Jungle Book 2 (a film that could arrive as soon as late 2018 or 2019) to enjoy a fresh adventure with the man-cub Mowgli – rather than re-watch the same story told differently by Serkis. Whatever happens, though, having Cuarón onboard to help Serkis in his effort should only help the situation.
Andy Serkis’ The Jungle Book is currently scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on October 19th, 2018.