Andy Serkis' Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is now available on Netflix, and it will undoubtedly be compared to Disney's live-action Jungle Book movie, which was directed by Jon Favreau. Several years ago, Serkis aimed to tell the definitive version of Mowgli's story, a character from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book novels, which have been comprised into the collection All the Mowgli Stories. It took many years, but it's now out and available to audiences worldwide.
Even though Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle earned some brutal reviews, it's a decent story and an ambitious take on the iconic Jungle Book character. Despite the unevenness in its story, Netflix's Mowgli is a much more accurate adaptation of Kipling's Jungle Book novels than any other mainstream movie adaptation in the past, which primarily means Disney's animated Jungle Book movie from 1967 and Favreau's live-action Jungle Book movie from 2016.
Both of Disney's versions - despite the fact that Favreau's adaptation of the animated film appended certain aspects of Kipling's stories - were immensely sanitized reworkings of what the author envisioned in The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book. And the differences between Disney's Jungle Book story and Serkis' Mowgli start to shine throughout Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, because Serkis not only took inspiration from all of Kipling's stories, but he stuck to them as well.
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Netflix's Mowgli Is More Accurate To The Books
Taken from The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, Serkis' Mowgli starts off by primarily following the short story Mowgli's Brothers, which chronicles Mowgli from the time he was accepted among the wolves - thanks to Baloo and Bagheera, who bought his life by capturing a bull - to when he was exiled due to using fire to attack Shere Khan, thus bringing shame to the jungle. In both Netflix's Mowgli and Kipling's book, the Law of the Jungle states two non-related animals must take responsibility for the man-cub, and that's what Baloo and Bagheera do. However, in Disney's Jungle Book, only Bagheera accepts and educates Mowgli.
While Netflix's movie is obviously centered on Mowgli's story, it takes time to flesh out all the other characters in his life - which is something Disney's Jungle Book never does. For instance, Bagheera's story about being raised in a cage in the King's Palace is told in Netflix's Mowgli but is completely ignored in Disney and Favreau's Jungle Book. For Baloo, sure it's nice to hear him teach Mowgli about the "Bare Necessities" in life, but that's not as important as the Law of the Jungle, as it's responsible for everything that happens in Kipling's Jungle Book novels. Plus, Baloo's relationship with Mowgli in Netflix's movie is much more accurate overall, seeing as Baloo takes responsibility for everything that Mowgli goes through. In Kipling's books, as well as the Jungle Book movies (including Mowgli), Shere Khan is accurately portrayed, for the most part, though Mowgli differs from Disney's movie in that it includes a jackal named Tabaqui, who's Shere Khan's sidekick.
Then there's Kaa (a male snake in the books), who saves Mowgli after he's kidnapped by the monkeys in Netflix's movie, in addition to informing Baloo and Bagheera - who both join her - about the kidnapping, but in Disney's movie, Mowgli is kidnapped by King Louie - a character that doesn't even exist in the source material. Furthermore, a character who actually appears in Netflix's Mowgli from Kipling's books but doesn't make an appearance in Disney's Jungle Book is the Grey Brother, who's known as Brother Wolf/Bhoot in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. While aspects of the character are different in the film, Bhoot's role in Mowgli's life is practically unchanged - and that's what leads to an emotional blow later on in the movie.
In Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle's final act, Mowgli calls upon the elephants to trap Shere Khan and practically destroy the entire man village. That actually happens in Kipling's book, though only to an extent. Mowgli's relationship with the elephants are an integral part of Kipling's books, and it's an aspect that truly plays out well in Netflix's film; even towards the end when the Elephants get their revenge by killing John Lockwood. All in all, Netflix's Mowgli adapts specific short stories and poems from Kipling's books without much deviation, while Disney's Jungle Book movie (though more family friendly) cherry-pick parts of the source material in order to better suit the story they want to tell.
The CGI In Netflix's Mowgli Is More Cartoony
Even though Netflix's Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is made by Serkis, who's credited with pioneering motion capture in Hollywood, the CGI in the movie isn't as well done as Favreau's Jungle Book movie - and that can be attributed to a number of reasons; the first of which is budget. While it hasn't been revealed what Mowgli's budget was, it stands to reason that it must not have been exorbitantly high for WB to unload the movie to Netflix; even the streaming giant likely wouldn't pay top-dollar to cover the costs for a blockbuster movie if it had the size of Favreau's Jungle Book, which had an estimated production budget of $177 million. That's an appropriate number given that it was Disney's big live-action remake of the year.
Because of the motion capture, CGI, and the overall tone of the first half of the movie, Mowgli's CGI ended up being more cartoony than expected. While its story is dark, and perhaps too dark for kids, its cartoonish visuals don't properly represent what transpired throughout the film, such as the opening sequence, the race, the Elephants charging through the man village, and more. However, there are moments where the CGI truly shines, including the scene in which Mowgli is hiding from Shere Khan in the water. But because the overall movie is much more cartoony and unrefined, aside from the hybrid motion capture which properly represents its actors, the visuals in Netflix's Mowgli aren't as groundbreaking as Favreau's Jungle Book was, and is instead all about the story.
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- Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) release date: Dec 07, 2018