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Why Andy Serkis' Mowgli will be unlike any Jungle Book adaptation you've seen before


A couple of years ago, you may remember Disney released a little film that reimagined the classic The Jungle Book. Directed by Iron Man filmmaker Jon Favreau, and featuring the voices of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o and Scarlett Johansson, the Disney film featured a dazzling blend of live-action and cutting-edge CGI effects.

This year, there's another Jungle Book adaptation coming, but it's far from the sweet, child-friendly Disney tale we're used to. Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, the Planet of the Apes reboot and more) is not only behind the camera directing, but he's also starring in this latest adaptation, simply titled Mowgli. If you have only ever experienced the beloved children's tale through Disney retellings, here's why Mowgli will be unlike any other the Jungle Book films you've seen before.

It delves even further into Rudyard Kiping's stories

As with its predecessors, the new film is based on the classic collection of short stories from 1894, The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling. However, Mowgli will capture different parts of the stories that have never been touched upon before.

Serkis has stated that his Mowgli, "is trying to delve into Kipling's book and the journey for Mowgli as an outsider, as an other, trying to find his identity." One of the reasons the story is so popular, and still studied by academics today, is because of their dark and emotional themes: otherness, belonging, abandonment, revenge and identity, to name a few.

This new adaptation explores these areas in much greater depth than the earlier Disney movies, skewing towards a slightly older audience in the process.

It's got a higher film classification

According to the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), the film has been rated PG-13, broadly equivalent to a 12A here in the UK (although the film has yet to be rated in the UK by the BBFC). Whereas the 2016 version of The Jungle Book was rated PG, the PG-13 rating may indicate Mowgli is going to be slightly scarier than previous adaptations.

Explaining the darker feel of the film, Serkis explains: "It's a PG-13, more a kind of Apes movie, a slightly darker take, closer to Rudyard Kipling's. It's great to scare kids in a safe environment because it's an important part of development, and we all loved to be scared as kids, so we shouldn't overly protect them. Kids are so sophisticated, and that is why our Jungle Book is quite dark."

Serkis here refers to his groundbreaking motion-capture work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), in which he starred as chimpanzee Caesar. With its uncompromising themes of warring conflict between man and primate, the series is made for a mass audience but doesn't skimp on powerful, violent or upsetting moments. It is likely that Mowgli will take a leaf out of the Apes trilogy's book and go one step further than Disney's previous adaptations.

It takes performance capture technology to a new level

Similar to the Apes reboot series, Mowgli will be using performance capture, whereby the actors perform in special suits while a computer records their movements. This ultimately translates into a CGI creation in the finished product.

Embodying Kipling's animal characters are Christian Bale as Mowgli's black panther mentor Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as snake Kaa, Naomie Harris as Nisha, Jack Reynor as Brother Wolf, Benedict Cumberbatch as tiger villain Shere Khan and, of course, Serkis himself as friendly bear Baloo. Meanwhile, on the live-action front, Rohan Chand plays the eponymous Mowgli.

Serkis is a veteran at performance capture. He's famously been Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the titular, iconic ape in King Kong (2005), Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin and even evil Snoke in the latest Star Wars films. Safe to say that Serkis is the best person to be behind the camera for a film that predominately uses performance capture.

Mowgli is going one step further with performance capture this time, creating a stronger resemblance between the actor's faces and that of their animal counterparts. Serkis explains: "We very carefully, in a long development period, designed the animals to fit the actor's faces".

Hopefully this means that the animals will look more than just real, they will have recognisable characteristics, too. This promises a deeper sense of vulnerability and nuance in these classic creations, as we forge a deeper emotional connection with them.

Mowgli is released on 9th October, so tweet us @Cineworld with your thoughts as to why it will revolutionise The Jungle Book.

Nadine Shambrook is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.