Netflix's Mowgli Is Darker (& Sillier) Than Disney's Jungle Book
It seems ridiculous to think that a movie without any singing can be sillier than a movie that's inherently a musical at heart - but that seems to be the case with Netflix's Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. The first half of the movie appears to be one thing - specifically, a story focused on an approximately 11-year-old child trying to find his way in the world of the jungle - while the second half of the movie turns into something completely different, such as a revenge story.
Disney's Jungle Book movie takes itself seriously but that doesn't mean it's a necessarily dark story. And while it's a musical with plenty of songs, it's still a drama. Netflix's Mowgli, on the other hand, is a drama that dives into its fantastical roots, in the beginning, thanks to Bhoot, Tabaqui, and even Mowgli himself, in just the way that everyone acts. Even though Mowgli is on the verge of being exiled from the jungle, he still spends a long time playfully training for the biggest event of his life, no matter how much Baloo tries to keep him on track. In one moment, he may take what he's doing seriously, but in the next moment, it's as if he's care-free. Perhaps that's the crux of who he is, but it feeds into the (emotional) unevenness of the whole movie.
Netflix's Mowgli Animals Are Less Realistic Than Disney's Jungle Book
One of Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle's chief criticisms is its lack of realism. It's a live-action Jungle Book movie yet its animals act in such a way that perhaps aren't as refined as Disney's live-action version, but it's possible it wasn't meant to be that way. What Serkis has done in his previous movies (ones that he's starred in) that used motion capture was to construct around the person's face, so that their emotions and facial complexities could translate onto the big screen, even though their faces were covered by CGI. And that's precisely what Serkis did with Mowgli; this is something viewers can see especially in Bagheera, who's played by Christian Bale. Shere Khan appears to be the most "realistic" animal of the group, but the rest of animals are almost too cartoonish, despite some of them looking visually striking.
Overall, Netflix's Mowgli builds itself from the mindset of Kipling himself, and especially what Kipling had known about the Indian jungle at the time he wrote his Jungle Book stories all those years ago, but Serkis' film doesn't take the necessary steps in rooting itself in reality, save for a few sequences, most of which take place in the man village towards the end of the film. Everything in the man village is top-notch, and that includes the horrifying scene in which Mowgli finds out about Bhoot's fate as well as the true nature of man's world, which, unfortunately, includes John Lockwood's hunting escapades. However, taking everything into account, Netflix's Mowgli doesn't lend itself to realism in the way that Disney's Jungle Book movie from 2016 attempted to do from the very beginning. That's not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it something that filmmakers should strive to do. But perhaps the best thing about Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is that it's a much more accurate adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book novels - and that is a win in and of itself.
- Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) release date: Dec 07, 2018