Originally scheduled for release back in 2016 before being blindsided by Disney announcing a remake of their own, Andy Serkis’ directorial effort has finally found its footing on Netflix, bringing us a new version of an old classic after a long two-year delay. This is an altogether darker telling of the tale of Mowgli, bringing new focus to the boy raised by a wolf pack deep in the Indian jungle, and highlighting his struggle to both fit in with his animal family and escape the jaws of the villainous tiger Shere Khan. Serkis’ new slant on The Jungle Book takes its audience down a winding, danger-ridden jungle path, blending live-action sets with CGI and motion capture performances to create its threatening world.
The motion capture is top-notch (as you might expect from a veteran like Serkis), and allows its actors to deliver meaningful performances – particularly Christian Bale’s pensive panther Bagheera, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Shere Khan, the snarling human-hating tiger barely able to contain his disgusted rage. But having such detailed facial motion capture almost causes a slight disconnect as you watch a panther who genuinely resembles Bale or a battle-scarred Baloo who looks (almost uncomfortably) like Serkis.
The jungle vistas are stunning and you often forget that what you’re seeing is nearly entirely CGI. But the sweeping jungle takes over the plot a little too easily as the story jumps around, never really settling on what it wants to be. Is this an all-action CGI popcorn fest, or a dark, ponderous fairy tale about man’s growing effect on the natural world?
With stunningly crisp CGI and motion capture, no doubt can be cast that Andy Serkis knows his stuff when it comes to performance capture and getting the most out of today’s technology. However, a jumpy plot and confused final product lets this decidedly darker iteration of The Jungle Book down.
CAST: Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Rohan Chand, Andy Serkis, Peter Mullan, Naomie Harris, Matthew Rhys, Tom Hollander, Eddie Marsan, Frieda Pinto
DIRECTOR: Andy Serkis
WRITER: Callie Kloves, based on the stories of Rudyard Kipling
SYNOPSIS: Raised by a wolf pack in the deep jungle, a young boy named Mowgli (Rohan Chand) must fight for his life with the help of strict teachers Bagheera (Christian Bale) and Baloo (Andy Serkis) after he is targeted by Shere-Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), a violent tiger who will stop at nothing to exterminate humans.