Just in the nick of time, there is a new movie called “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle”. It is based on Rudyard Kipling works, including “The Jungle Book”. But do not confuse this movie with other movies called “The Jungle Book” (versions released in 1967, 1994, and 2016) or “The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story” (1998) or “”The Jungle Book 2” (2003). Those other movies are not like this new movie, because this is based on “All the Mowgli Stories”. Also, it is not part of the Disney franchise, so there are no musical numbers or singing vultures. Is does feature Mowgli, so that clears up everything for you…
Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is a boy orphaned in the jungles of India long ago. As a little baby, his parents are killed by the striped Bengal tiger named Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). Mowgli is found by Bagheera (Christian Bale) who is a black panther in the jungle. He finds the boy and leaves him with the nearby family of wolves. Mowgli knows that he is unusual, but he also knows that his wolf parents care for him. He is taught, like the other wolf cubs, by the Himalayan brown bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis). Mowgli learns of the Man Village, but he avoids it and wants no part of it. He knows that some day Shere Khan will return and will try and kill him. Mowgli plans to be ready for that day. There is an ancient python named Kaa (Cate Blanchett) who knows the past and the future. She knows that Mowgli can be a great leader in the jungle, or he might one day destroy their home.
The people of the Man Village have hired a Great White Hunter named Lockwood (Matthew Rhys) to track down and kill Shere Khan. Mowgli studies with Baloo, and he learns that he can use his human features to also be fast in the jungle. He can run upright, he can climb trees and swing on vines, and he can use tools. That makes Mowgli very different form the wolves. He is also different from other jungle creatures. Mowgli makes friends with the elephants, and one day he is kidnapped by the apes. He is almost turned over to Shere Khan by the apes, but he is rescued by the elephants, Bagheera and Baloo. Mowgli is found by the hunter Lockwood, and he stays for a while in the Man Village. But Mowgli knows that he must face Shere Khan some day, so he leaves the Village to find and fight the ruthless tiger.
So in case you have not seen any of the other five or so movies about the Jungle Book or about Mowgli, then this will not give away any surprise endings. But if you want to know “The Bare Necessities” about this movie, than you can “Trust in Me”. Andy Serkis has taken an old favorite and has given a new and talented cast a shot at making something different. He gets close to it in a few places, but the fact that everybody knows the story hold this adaptation back from being great. There is an amazing visual landscape that is created, and it all looks good. The CGI creatures created for the main animal characters are really well done. The voice acting is very convincing. There is a section of the movie where Mowgli spends in the Man Village, and that part has never been explored in the past.
Rohan Chand makes a very good impression as Mowgli, very skinny and spritely. He is very physical in this role, and he does it well. Christian Bale and Andy Serkis are very stable and upright as Bagheera and Baloo. They match up very well with the characters. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Shere Khan, but is couple of scenes he almost goes from drama to parody (“I will not rest until I drink the blood of the Man Cub !!!!”). The human characters (other than Mowgli) never too much attention. So this will be released to a limited run in theaters, but most of the viewing will be done when it gets to Netflix.