Movie Review: MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE - Very Dark And Not Very Childish Film

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Movie Review: MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE - Photo credit:, Edition by Amber255 via

The 21 film from the IMDb list of 50 best movies of 2018 is MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE

The jungle is a mysterious and deadly place, dominated by its own rules and code. It is a place where human life costs nothing, and every side is full of various dangers that can instantly take away any life. However, there is an exception. Mowgli becomes such an exception. An adventure drama about Mowgli invites us to dive into the story of a boy who is lost in the wild jungles of India.

Everyone remembers Andy Serkis for the role of Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings. Then he played monkeys a few more times in King Kong and Planet of the Apes trilogy. But now it's time for Serkis to move away from the image of a monkey and sit in the director's chair.  As a debut project, Andy decided to make his own version of the adventures of a boy who survived between wolves. 

Too terrifying for children, too boring for adults and arriving far too soon after a nearly identical project, Andy Serkis's Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is a frustrating, fascinating mess.


The film laid on the shelf for almost two years, because Warner Bros did not really want to compete with the Disney version of 2016, and didn’t really believe in the success of the project. Nevertheless, the film acquired the streaming giant Netflix that laid out a picture for general viewing. Let's see what came of it.

MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE official trailer - Video

The Short Story Of The Movie

 The little orphan finds himself in the jungle and is taken under care by a whole wolf gang together with bear Baloo and Panthera Bagheera.  He manages to survive thanks to the animals. The wild world accepts it as its own. Local animals, experiencing sympathy for the living human being, take it under their care. And soon the wild world becomes a home for the boy. He forgets his past life, accepting a new world in all its glory.

The boy grows up and gradually realizes that he is not a wolf. But at the same time, brought up by wolves, he cannot call himself a human.

But there is an exception in the jungle too. He becomes a cruel and terrible tiger named Sher Khan. Mowgli understands that he cannot trust him. But the boy still does not know that in these places there are things that are worse. He will have to face his human nature and the actions of people who are ready to ruin the animal world.

 The boy Mowgli decides that he must leave wolves and find his place among his own kind in the village of people.


Netflix film MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE - Photo credit:

The Content Of The Movie

MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE - a film of difficult fate. Initially, the film got a name of Jungle Book: Origins and its release should be in 2016. Given that the main filming ended in 2015, the film again postpones to October 2017 due to the need for extra time to work on special effects, and then to October 2018, away from Disney's The Jungle Book directed by John Favreau. The name of the picture, meanwhile, was changed to Mowgli: Tales from the Jungle Book, and then completely shortened to Mowgli. In June 2018, Warner Bros., realizing that the film could fail, sold the rights to Netflix, thus saving itself from marketing costs. In November 2018, the film changed its name for the fourth time, now MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE and, finally, in the last days of November, it appeared in some countries. 

It seems like a familiar story from a children's book under the direction of Andy Serkis is transformed into a not quite children's film. The feeling of gloominess does not leave throughout the whole picture. And the topics raise painfully contrast with the original story. 


50 best movies of 2018 - MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE - Photo credit:

Here we get the questions of self-identification, the theme of an outcast, and the theme of revenge. Nothing bright, kind or positive. Mowgli wallows in mud, eats raw meat, gets open cuts and scars - sissies do not survive here. 

Actually, it is not surprising that the film was initially postponed for two years, in order not to compete with The Jungle Book. There, by the way, were also gloomy moments and falling in the mud, but there was also a place for fun, sweet nonsense, like the findings of a young engineer and inappropriate conversations about the terms of civilization, which neither a boy nor animals could know in principle. 

The Serkis version turned out to be more honest and closer to reality, as far as possible in the film with talking animals. By the way, only Mowgli speaks with animals, so when other people seem in the frame, there is a language barrier. 


Netflix's Mowgli - Photo credit:

With a light Disney musical, it relates only by the general plan and the well-known names of the characters; otherwise, it is a completely different story. Actually, this is the main problem of the film. The Disney interpretation of the book is so densely embedded in the heads of several generations of viewers, that it is very difficult to knock it out.

The main question of this film is its audience. Disney's The Jungle Book was a classic family film that you can watch with your whole family at your leisure. For children, there were a lot of cute animals and a bunch of characters worthy of their adoration. But in the film of Serkis, there is even nobody to sympathize to.

It looks to me that the idea of Serkis is not completely finished for the adult audience would like it, and the very tone of the tape is too gloomy for children. To be honest, the need for another film adaptation of the R. Kipling book The Jungle raised doubts two years ago, during the release of the movie trailer of the classic Disney cartoon The Jungle Book. The Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle on Netflix only confirmed me in the opinion that this story should better leave alone. At least for a while.


The movie about Mowgli- Photo credit:

So, despite the fact that there are practically no really scary episodes in the film, I do not recommend watching it with children. I do not think they will appreciate the story about the struggle for power in the jungle, the general gloom of the picture, and the message to defend the rights of people who are minorities. And what really can frighten young and not only young spectators are the inhabitants of the jungle themselves.

Even a good play of actors does not save this picture. If you read the book, you know this story very well, and the plot twists will not surprise you at all. If you are closer to the cartoon version of Disney, then most of the film you are likely to spend waiting for musical numbers and jokes, which are simply not there.  In general, the scenes in the village, reminiscent of the stories of real people brought up by beasts, perhaps are the most touching and powerful in the film.


Movie Review: MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE - Photo credit:

The Personages Of The Movie

Mowgli, played by Rohan Chand, is a child of two worlds and, at the same time, does not belong to any of them. A boy desperately tries to find his place and even finds it before we see the last titles. All the way through the film, Mowgli gets kicked, pushed, scratched, cut, and shots - we see a sadistic tale in the spirit of Mel Gibson, but only with talking beasts. In one of the scenes, the guy was even locked up in a cage and treated him like an animal - a strong metaphor, I don’t argue, but still, it’s not worth showing children such scenes. And not every adult will be happy seeing this.

Akela : When you were a cub, I looked you in the eye and saw no fear. I believed that one day you would bring peace to the jungle. But you have become a man now.

Mowgli : I'm not a man! But neither am I a wolf.


There is an attempt to show Mowgli as a creature that is alien to both beasts living in the jungle and humans, a creature that is not like others and is trying to find its place in the world. 

  just did not like the tiger Shere Khan. In my humble opinion, the character made was disgusting. Some kind of fat, ugly, flat head, no grace, and strength. Very strange, because tigers are such beautiful animals.


The movie about Mowgli - Photo credit:  

The Technical Side Of The Movie

 The film reflects the Indian identity of the environment and, accordingly, all living things correspond to reality. The Disney cartoon couldn’t brag about it, and there all the animals were put in a bunch, without analyzing their habitats at all. Here, Indian attributes, rituals, and the main character have a characteristic appearance. 

 What really scares in the Serkis movie is the characters animation. The general plans are generally good - the impenetrable jungles and the animals running through woods look quite naturally until the moment when it comes to talking. Here, in all its glory, the effect of an ominous valley awakens, when an artificial object is so much like a real one that it causes a feeling of rejection.

The fact is that the muzzles of animals are based on the mocap (motion capture animation) of real actors. Therefore, in the face of the bear Balu, it is very easy to see Andy Serkis’s own gaze, in Bagheera - Christian Bale’s tired glance, Sher Khan grins with Benedikt Cumberbatch's smirk, and Kaa python hypnotizes with Cate Blanchett’s look.


Netflix Film about Mowgli - Photo credit:

All of them we recognize primarily by the eyes, which are simply not peculiar to animals, but the worst thing is that the lips move in the way of human facial expressions. That is what creates the very effect of rejection. Well, animals can not move their lips so and have such facial expressions. Disney's The Jungle Book showed talking animals but did it neatly and naturally - there, though the animation of the mouth was not articulatory-correct, at least the animals looked like animals, and not people with distorted by fur faces.

Deciding to make the characters more brutal and gloomy, the filmmakers added scars to them, traced every scratch, wrinkle, broken hair or gray hair on the face. As a result, the heroes of the film began to look like the animated scarecrows.

In addition, Serkis boasts of this technology, so the film has many close-ups with the same facial animation that scares away worse than nightmares. In principle, if you move away from the screen, squinting and looking to the side, it turns out tolerable. But I want to watch it normally. 

The soundtrack came out to match the common gloom - heavy and oppressive. No funny tunes and songs on the belly of a bear floating along the river.

MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE Memorable Moments - Video credit:

The Collective Work Of The Actors 

The strange appearance of the heroes somehow doesn't fit if we remember which stars took part in the motion capture and voiced of the characters in the filmChristian Bale, Tom HollanderBenedict Cumberbatch, Cate BlanchettAndy Serkis himself, Naomie Harris, and Peter Mullan.

If you do decide to watch a movie, I strongly recommend that you switch to English. Although the picture came out on Netflix also with several languages (this is recently the standard for new releases), it is significantly inferior to English. 

Stars for a good reason get fabulous fees, they really try, and in the original voice of the film greatly wins.

Yes, unlike Disney's The Jungle Book, in the Andy Serkis film there are more live actors.  In addition to Rohan Chand, who is very sincere and direct in the role of Mowgli, Freida Pinto, familiar to us from Slumdog Millionaire, and Matthew Rhys, who managed to realize a very controversial but interesting image of the Lockwood, appeared in the film.


Netflix's Mowgli - Photo credit:

The young actor Rohan Chand is originally from India, so it fits well with this role. But overall, the guy did well. And the appearance was picked not sweet, according to the type - compliance. If to think how much he had to lie in all the dirt! Really, the young actor is chosen for the role extremely well. Here are only comments to him: a young human, like a real beast, thin and plastic. Looking at him, you understand that a human child who grew up in the jungle should look like him.

On The Final Note 

MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE  according to Andy Serkis is a grim adventure drama that is not very suitable for children, and even adults will not feel too pleased to watch this film. This is due to the very strange decision of the director to make animals look like humans, and this creates the effect of an ominous valley. 

Although from a dramatic point of view, everything is more than good here - growing up and becoming a hero looks extremely convincingly, and Roen Chand is not at all annoyed with his performance. It’s not bad for a directorial debut, but playing monkeys for Andy Serkis is still getting better.

Versions of stories about Mowgli do not end to amaze the audience. And oddly enough, even though you know the story by heart, but it still attracts attention. It's the cruel tale of an incredible child who was punished by fate, making it an orphan and leaving one in the middle of the rainforest to death.


MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE review - Photo credit:

The film is very realistic. After all, if in a flock of either animals or even humans, there appears someone who breaks the laws and kills, not to feed themselves, but for entertainment, then, will wait for trouble. The fragile balance that reigns in the world is so easy to destroy.

Let's watch the old story in a new way.

Kaa : The whole jungle has been watching you, man-cub.

Mowgli : Why?

Kaa : Even you must know you are unusual. Not quite a wolf, not quite a man, or neither, or both...



My rating: 5.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 52/100
Metacritic: 51/100
Critics average: 55/100
IMDb: 6.5/10




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