Andy Serkis’s Mowgli is basically Jungle Book, the “Dark Knight” version.
I recently read my daughter’s Jungle Book school textbook (graphic novel) for English. Amongst many other retellings, this film version is close (if not closest) to the book version. And things got dark pretty much from the get-go.
The story is slower, methodical, disturbing and rooted in reality. For instance, Mowgli looks perpetually starving. The wolves don’t have clean, trimmed, silky fur. The elephants have moss growing on top of their heads and bodies.
It’s different of course, you’re used to seeing things prim and proper whereas here you have a Shere Khan who is in bad need of a shave. And Tabaqui has an appearance only a mother can love (not this mother though).
From his time in LOTR, Serkis has revolutionised virtual production, as he calls it. In Mowgli, the characters show human facial expressions and emotions. If you don’t already know, Serkis himself voices Baloo the Bear who teaches the Laws of the Jungle. He doesn’t sign about Bare Necessities in this one.
A somewhat eerie yet important observation one can make is that the eyes of the “animals” reflect those of humans. As uncomfortable as the thought makes me, it’s incredible that this can be translated onto the screen. I’m no expert but this is award-winning stuff right here.
It’s interesting to know that in the book, Kaa, the snake was a good guy, and that Shere Khan was trampled to death by panicked cows in an ambush masterminded by Mowgli and his brother wolves.
In this movie, Kaa is a seer who can see into the past and future, and she is neither friend nor foe. Shere Khan dies in the hands of Mowgli in a brutal not kid-friendly way.