"Dark, Unnecessary Remake"
What You Need To Know:
This version of THE JUNGLE BOOK is more violent and melodramatic than its predecessors, which doesn’t help the story. It still feels too familiar to merit another remake. Yet, the additional violence makes MOWGLI unsuitable for younger audiences who might experience the story for the first time. In the end, the story isn’t enough to hold the attention of adults but isn’t suitable for younger children. While there are light themes of acceptance, there’s little content that’s exceptionally positive or profound to make the movie worth watching. Finally, MOWGLI waters down many of the moral themes of previous versions, making it an unnecessary remake.
MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE is a darker take on Rudyard Kipling’s classic Jungle Book story, focusing on Mowgli’s journey of being raised by wolves, hunted by Shere Khan, and deciding between his jungle upbringing and a new human village. This more dramatic take on the classic story feels far too familiar to merit another remake. It still feels like a story for children, yet the additional violence makes it unsuitable for younger audiences.
This retelling of a classic follows a human boy found by a pack of wolves as an infant. Hunted by the ferocious tiger Shere Kahn, the wolves adopt Mowgli as a member of their pack and vow to keep him safe. He grows up as one of the pack, but his differences come to a head when he must participate in “The Running,” a rite of passage for all the teenage wolves. They all must race each other through the jungle while evading Bageera, the panther who found Mowgli as a boy who’s also a member of the pack. Knowing a boy has no hope of winning a race with wolves, the bear Baloo trains him to the best of his ability.
While training for the running, Shere Kahn once again renews his vow to kill Mowgli, just like he killed Mowgli’s parents. He waits for the day that Mowgli will be kicked out of the pack so Shere Kahn can kill him. Mowgli must pass the running in order to stay safe. Unhappily, the running doesn’t go as planned, and Mowgli must flee to a human village.
However, when Shere Kahn starts taking over the entire jungle, Mowgli’s loyalties are tested. He must choose between his human village and his jungle home, and rid the jungle of Shere Kahn once and for all.
Directed by motion capture legend Andy Serkis, MOWGLI the movie certainly does have some remarkable animation work and visual effects. Newcomer Rohan Chand, who plays Mowgli, gives a memorable performance, especially when you consider he’s the only live action character for the movie’s first part. It’s interesting to see a darker take on such a childhood classic, with more intense action sequences and higher stakes, but, sadly, this novelty wears off and doesn’t sustain the duration of the movie.
If audience members are familiar with previous retellings, there isn’t much new here except the style. The story itself still feels very much like a story for children, with predictable themes and a predictable ending. It drags at times, with various set pieces that feel like filler scenes rather than a whole movie. The story and the genre still play better to children than they do adults. With Mowgli being on the outside of the pack and not knowing where he belongs, there are numerous messages against bullying and being unique. “They mistake uniqueness as weakness,” one of the runts of the pack tells Mowgli. There isn’t a lot of subtext here, which again plays better to younger audiences.
At the same time, the movie isn’t made for younger children. There are numerous sequences of action violence that leave Mowgli with some pretty significant injuries. Shere Kahn is terrifying and often speaks of wanting to taste Mowgli’s blood. Most adults could be able to handle the amount of violence and blood, but the movie certainly earns its PG-13 rating. This version is also much darker and more scary. In an attempt to make the animals more realistic, they are also rather unpleasant. This version also features an enormous jungle snake, Kaa, who prophecies that Mowgli will be a special leader of both the jungle and men. There’s also a scene where a hunter shows off all of his killings that would be particularly disturbing to a child.
In the end, the story isn’t enough to hold the attention of adults, yet the content isn’t suitable for younger children. This dramatic update is often too dramatic at times, bordering on melodrama, especially at the end. There are also some questionable worldview elements. When Bageera teaches Mowgli to hunt, he says to always look the kill in the eye as they die, so the soul isn’t alone when it departs. Set in the jungles of India, the animals are sympathetic to the Hindu beliefs that cows are sacred. While there are light themes of acceptance, it’s nothing exceptionally positive or profound that makes the movie worth watching. The movie waters down many of the moral themes of previous versions, making it an unnecessary remake.