Andy Serkis’ adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s famous fable, The Jungle Book, feels as though it’s been in development for a very long time. It was originally announced around the same time as Jon Favreau’s plans for Disney’s The Jungle Book – and as a result, was largely eclipsed by the commercial and critical success of that film, when it was released in 2016. Serkis has long since tried to differentiate between his project and Favreau’s though, mostly by calling it The Jungle Book: Origins. Now, as Warner Bros. announces its slate for 2018, Serkis’ pic has received a new title and synopsis.
The movie will now be called Mowgli and, while its new title is quite different and specific, its synopsis is predictably familiar.
“Blending live action and performance capture, the story follows the upbringing of the human child Mowgli (Rohan Chand) raised by a wolf pack in the jungles of India. As he learns the often-harsh rules of the jungle, under the tutelage of a bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis) and a panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale), Mowgli becomes accepted by the animals of the jungle as one of their own. All but one: the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). But there may be greater dangers lurking in the jungle, as Mowgli comes face to face with his human origins.
The other story’s central animal characters are: Kaa, the snake (Cate Blanchett); the leader of the wolf pack, Akela (Peter Mullan); the scavenging hyena, Tabaqui (Tom Hollander); Nisha, the female wolf (Naomie Harris), who adopts the baby Mowgli as one of her cubs; Nisha’s mate, Vihaan (Eddie Marsan); and Mowgli’s Brother Wolf (Jack Reynor).”
This familiarity arises as a result of the classic source material, and the fact that – thanks to Disney’s decades-long fascination with the tale – it lives well in the popular consciousness. Necessarily, there are a limited number of ways in which a filmmaker can make one adaptation stand apart from another, when they draw from the same source.
The most notable differences between this synopsis, the source material, and the Disney versions is that one of the animal species has been changed, and the name of the female wolf that adopts Mowgli has been changed from Raksha to Nisha. It remains to be seen what impact these minor alterations will have on the story as a whole, though.
Regardless, it’s hoped that Andy Serkis will seek to make his adaptation of The Jungle Book stand out by adhering more closely to the darker aspects of the source material than Disney ever have – and if that’s indeed the case, then this should make for a very interesting project when Mowgli opens in theatres on October 19th, 2018.