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Just two years ago, the Walt Disney Company pulled off a very unexpected success – a state-of-the-art digital animated remake of its 1967 masterpiece The Jungle Book, the inspired adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling stories that was famously the last film Disney personally supervised. Against the odds, the new one was a triumph, with just a couple of the original songs, some ingenious new plot quirks and a whole lot of energy and fun. But now – bafflingly, boringly – there is yet another adaptation, by Warner Brothers and Netflix, a heavier and more cumbersome version directed by Andy Serkis.
So we trudge back to the uncanny valley for another bout of ultra-realistic animation. No songs at all now, and not much fun. The new idea is a new transgression, a new interpretation of the law of the jungle, a loyalty crisis between Mowgli and the other animals, which puts the “man village” in front of the camera with some actual non-CGI human actors – making this seem like a superhero origin story.
The man village scenes break the spell, muddling the story; and making the Indian villagers dramatically equivalent to the animals gives us an ungainly kind of orientalism. As ever, we are left to ponder the non-Darwinian fact that Mowgli has no greater kinship with the sly monkeys than with all the other monkeys.
Shere Khan is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch; Akela by Peter Mullan; Bagheera by Christian Bale and a female Kaa by Cate Blanchett – Scarlett Johansson did it last time. And why is Kaa the constrictor considered suitable for a gender switch and not the tiger or the wolf or the panther? Who knows? This new Mowgli is surplus to requirements.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle review – man-cub makes a pointless return | Animation in film