Cast: Rohan Chad, Matthew Rhys, Freida Pinto, Christian Bale
Director: Andy Serkis
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Acclaimed actor and director Andy Serkis reinvents Rudyard Kipling’s beloved masterpiece, in which a boy torn between two worlds accepts his destiny and becomes a legend. Mowgli (Rohan Chand) has never truly belonged in either the wilds of the jungle or the civilized world of man. Now he must navigate the inherent dangers of each on a journey to discover where he truly belongs. Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, Rohan Chand, Matthew Rhys and Naomie Harris lead an all-star cast in this visually spectacular and emotionally moving adventure.
If you are going to adapt a story that we have seen many times before, the one thing you can do is add something unique to separate yourself from the other versions of your film. The one thing I can Serkis credit for is that this movie is vastly different from previous tellings of this tale. While other versions have been pretty lighthearted and fun, this movie is surprisingly dark and shows the real horrors that people would go through if placed in Mowgli’s (Chad) situation. While this may not translate well for more traditional audiences, the strong performance by Serkis makes the story interesting enough to give us a slightly above average addition to Serkis’s career.
The film follows Mowgli, a human who is raised by wolves after his human parents are killed by Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), a Bengal tiger who hunts humans. Not satisfied with only killing Mowgli’s parents, Shere Khan makes it his mission that one day he will kill Mowgli. Things get more complicated when John Lockwood (Rhys), a trophy hunter, travels to the region with the intention of picking off these animals and adding them to his collection. While this cast is absolutely stacked from top to bottom, the performance of Serkis as Baloo, a bear who teaches Mowgli the ways of the jungle, is the highlight of the movie. This should not be a surprise based on Serkis’s career with motion-capture performances, but this is really the next progressive step in his career. While many of the other actors give strong performances, you can still see each of them as the character they are playing. For example, while I think Bale is strong in the role of Bagheera, every time he speaks I see it as Bale giving a performance instead of looking at the character itself. Serkis is the only one who can successfully break this mold, and in a cast that features Bale, Cumberbatch, and Cate Blanchett, this speaks volumes to how strong his performance is. Outside of Serkis though, the story is pretty standard even if it does stray outside of the expectations we have set for movies like this. The story tends to be very bloated and complicated to the point where it is tough to follow what is going on. Scenes that appear to be very important and significant in one moment are almost completely forgotten about when the next series of events occurs. A great movie will have a level of continuity and fluidity that successfully ties all of these scenes together, but at no point does the film connect the events from the beginning to the events that occur later on in the movie. There are moments where I started to feel some emotional development and response to some of the characters and their situations, but ultimately the script never went far enough to make the connection stronger. Add onto this CGI that while impressive at other scenes feels like it is far too much at other points and you have a movie with the potential to be better than what we ended up with.
Overall, when you have a cast that is this completely loaded from lead roles all the way down to the characters who in one scene, at the very least the film will be decent. While an actor like Serkis is more likely to shine in his role due to his previous experiences, this did not translate perfectly to the rest of the cast as they do not match the charisma that Serkis brings in his performance. While the cast was perfectly fine, had this movie spent more time in the writer’s room making the plot more concise instead of the confusing and organized plot that we got in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
Overall Score: 5.5/10