Hollywood dueling is alive and well, with this year having marked the release of both Millenium Films’ The Legend of Hercules and Paramount/MGM’s Hercules. The latter movie ultimately won at the box office, in no small part due to having Dwayne Johnson as the lead, but there’s already another set of movie twins on the horizon.
Next in line to keep us all confused is Disney’s live-action rendition of The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau, and Warner Bros.’ The Jungle Book: Origins, which will be directed by Andy Serkis and will make extensive use of the performance capture technology for which he is best known. Both films are based on Rudyard Kipling’s collection of short stories, in which a boy called Mowgli becomes lost in the jungle as an infant and is raised by a pack of wolves, a bear and a panther.
Serkis’ The Jungle Book: Origins now has its first cast member in place as THR reports that Benedict Cumberbatch will play the grouchy, predatory tiger Shere Khan. Cumberbatch and Serkis have both recently played motion-capture characters in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy; Serkis reprising his role as Gollum and Cumberbatch terrorizing dwarves as the fearsome dragon Smaug. Coincidentally, Cumberbatch also played another notorious villain called Khan in the sci-fi sequel Star Trek: Into Darkness.
The script for The Jungle Book: Origins was co-written by Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves and his daughter Callie Kloves, who was also recently tapped by Sony to adapt young adult sci-fi novel Seeker. Serkis has described the script as “quite a dark take” on the source material in which the jungle “is a Garden of Eden… but also is a place of fear and a place of threat.” Hopefully this darker take will help to differentiate Warner Bros. movie from Disney’s.
Cumberbatch is certainly a great addition to the cast and his voice is perfectly well suited to Shere Khan’s purr, but not everything about Warner Bros.’ adaptation has instilled confidence. For starters, the title is kind of awful and doesn’t make much sense unless the movie will be entirely about Mowgli’s baby years (or unless it’s being retooled as a superhero movie). Jungle Book: Origins will also be Serkis’ feature directorial debut, and the project has already been through a few development woes – with both Alejandro González Iñárritu and Ron Howard having been in talks to direct previously before turning it down.
If nothing else, The Jungle Book and The Jungle Book: Origins will make for a fun comparison after both movies have been released. Cumberbatch himself will be facing off against Idris Elba, who voices Shere Khan in Disney’s version. That’s going to be quite an epic battle of the voices.
The Jungle Book: Origins releases in theaters on October 21st, 2016.