Andy Serkis fi­nally in the Jun­gle

Sunday News - - SOUND AND VISION -

It was sup­posed to mark Andy Serkis’ di­rec­to­rial de­but. A nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion of his mo­tion-cap­ture ex­per­tise so vividly on dis­play in King Kong, The Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes trilo­gies. How­ever, when Dis­ney’s ri­val project got the jump on him, he de­cided to keep his adap­ta­tion of Rud­yard Ki­pling’s beloved In­dian jun­gle tales un­der wraps a lit­tle longer.

Fast-for­ward more than two-and-a-half years and Mowgli: Le­gend of the Jun­gle has fi­nally made its de­but – but not at the cinema. In­stead, it’s avail­able for all to watch on Net­flix, although Serkis him­self says screen­writer Cal­lie Kloves’ take is ‘‘re­ally not meant for young kids’’.

That’s im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent with the ap­pear­ance of the menagerie that sur­rounds young Ro­han Chand. Baloo, Bagheera and the gang are all world-weary, bat­tle-scarred char­ac­ters, con­cerned as much about Shere Khan’s lust for power as the in­cur­sion of man into the sa­cred space. With its vis­ceral na­ture and ever-grow­ing sense of dread, this feels more like Water­ship Down (an­other project soon to ar­rive on Net­flix) than any Jun­gle Book you re­mem­ber.

There’s no doubt that some of the vi­su­als and vo­cal cast­ing are im­pres­sive. Chris­tian Bale’s gravel tones are used to great ef­fect for Mowgli’s ini­tial men­tor Bagheera, Serkis brings a sur­pris­ing grav­i­tas (com­plete with an ac­cent straight from Lon­don’s East End) to the usu­ally jovial Baloo, and Cate Blanchett is a per­fect fit for the con­niv­ing Kaa. Shame the same can’t be said for the Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch-voiced Khan.

Some­thing ap­pears to have gone wrong in the vi­su­al­i­sa­tion for the tiger be­cause I couldn’t watch him with­out think­ing of An­gelina Jolie’s Kung Fu Panda char­ac­ter Ti­gress.

And, de­spite Serkis’ de­sire to posit this as a reimag­in­ing of Ki­pling’s wider sto­ries, it is hard not to com­pare it to Dis­ney’s much-loved Jun­gle Books (both avail­able on Stuff Pix). The Jun­gle Book from 1967 is a ri­otous, jazz-in­fused mu­si­cal, mem­o­rable as much for Louis Prima’s King Louie (a cre­ation the Mouse House in­vented them­selves) as its per­ilous el­e­ments.

And while many were scep­ti­cal about their de­ci­sion to travel back into the Jun­gle in 2016, Jon Favreau ( Iron Man) proved the doubters wrong. His take uses some se­ri­ously im­pres­sive CGI an­i­mals, spot-on vo­cal cast­ing and breath­tak­ing back­drops to tell a less free-wheel­ing story.

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