Andy Serkis of Planet of the Apes is directing yet another film adaptation of The Jungle Book.
A very recent adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s first Jungle Book novel was just released last year. It was directed by Jon Favreau, producer for the Iron Man films, who happens to also be directing a live-action rendition of another animated Disney classic The Lion King, to be released in 2019.
So I pose the question: Do we really need the planned 2018 Jungle Book movie? I mean, we’ve heard and seen the story countless times.
Comparison to Visuals in Previous Jungle Book Productions
A 2016 review from The New York Times of Favreau’s The Jungle Book stated one of my biggest complaints with the film: simply that it is referred to as a “live-action movie, though there’s scarcely anything alive in it.”
Pretty much the only thing you could tell was not CGI was Mowgli and perhaps some of the scenery. Also, Favreau’s film depicts Mowgli continuing to live in the jungle with the animals and not with his own kind, as most of the movie versions show.
Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book is, as of yet, the most recent example of a remake of the movie. Though some sources consider no movie to ever be as good as Kipling’s written word, many film historians take the 1942 Jungle Book directed by Zoltan Korda as the movie that most accurately depicts the original novel’s plot and descriptions. That is one of, if not the earliest film version. It was truly live action, created in a time before computer-generated effects, and thus it employed real animals and animal trainers.
Likewise, in the much more recent 1994 live-action Jungle Book with Cary Elwes, the animals seen reacting with the adult Mowgli are primarily not CGI. The tiger, the bear, the snake, everything: they’re all real and really well trained too.
So the fact that Andy Serkis’s new film employs computers instead of genuine living creatures is a bit of a downer, but it is to be expected. It’s the way movies are made these days.
Expectations of the New Film and Comparisons in Other Areas
Of course, the most definitive and memorable film version is likely Disney’s 1967 animated musical. It featured songs which would become favourites in the hearts of children and adults for generations to come. The general tunes of the classic music were reused in the 2016 film.
Like the CGI characters in newer adaptations, the characters of the animated film depended upon a rich and talented voice cast which included Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Sterling Holloway, and George Sanders. Then Disney had to make a sequel (a mere 36 years later), The Jungle Book 2, featuring a cast including John Goodman as Baloo and Tony Jay as Shere Khan.
I fear Andy Serkis’s Jungle Book will be too much like Favreau’s, resulting in the same dissatisfaction. The 2018 CGI Baloo looks almost identical to the Baloo of the 2016 version. The saving grace in this new film I believe will be the aspects which Serkis brings to the table. It is his first major feature film in which directs, and I know he has a lot of potential.
Another benefit is the cast backing up the CGI characters. I am especially excited to see Andy Serkis in the part of Baloo and Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan. I was sorely disappointed with Baloo in Favreau’s film. (Bill Murray might be able to act, but he can’t sing to save his life.)
The truth is no one is going to be able to live up to Phil Harris’ vocals, but hopefully Serkis, a renowned voice actor will be able to improve on Baloo’s singing.
I am definitely open to watching the upcoming 2018 Jungle Book movie. I just have some concerns, and I continue to ask myself “Why? Why do we need another Jungle Book?”