It's only been two years since Disney released its live action version of The Jungle Book in 2016 (which, understandably, was based off the studio's original 1967 animated movie of the same name), but already another adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's tale is arriving later this year. In development since 2012, Warner Bros' version of The Jungle Book, officially titled Mowgli, is a darker take on the story and was originally supposed to be released in theaters this October. However, it's been announced that Netflix has acquired the worldwide rights to Mowgli, and the movie will instead be released on the streaming platform sometime next year. But as Andy Serkis, Mowgli's director and voice of Baloo, sees it, moving to Netflix is the right choice, as now the movie can be marketed better. Serkis explained:
I'm really excited about Netflix for Mowgli. Now, we avoid comparisons to the other movie and it's a relief not to have the pressure. I've seen the 3D version, and it's exceptional, a different view from the 2D version, really lush and with great depth, and there will be some kind of theatrical component for that. What excites me most is the forward thinking at Netflix in how to present this, and the message of the movie. They understand this is a darker telling that doesn't fit it into a four quadrant slot. It's really not meant for young kids, though I think it's possible that 10 or above can watch it. It was always meant to be PG-13, and this allows us to go deeper, with darker themes, to be scary and frightening in moments. The violence between animals is not gratuitous, but it's definitely there. This way of going allows us to get the film out without compromise.
As Andy Serkis detailed to Deadline, initially there was a race between Disney and Warner Bros to see which company would release their Jungle Book movie first. Eventually Serkis realized that Mowgli would need to come in second place due to how much time would be spent on the performance capture techniques and post-production. Now instead of Warner Bros releasing Mowgli in theaters, the studio has instead sold it to Netflix, marking the streaming platform's biggest acquisition of a finished film so far. Serkis still hopes that Mowgli will get a theatrical release at some point so that people can see how great the movie's 3D effects look, but for now, he feels that Netflix is a better home for Mowgli in the long run. He continued:
I think this is their largest acquisition, it's a big movie But I never looked at it as a big blockbuster movie. It's hard to quantify. It has the scale of a blockbuster, but it's somewhere between Life of Pi and an Apes movie. It has that reality to it, same as Okja had. We are talking about 2019 and circling dates. Netflix has allowed the film making that I wanted to do, to exist and they've created an atmosphere for me kind of storytelling I set out to do.
Netflix made a splash earlier this year when it bought The Cloverfield Paradox from Paramount for reportedly around $50 million (and subsequently advertising it during the Super Bowl and releasing it a few hours later), but to obtain Mowgli is another level of accomplishment. This is yet another example of Netflix stepping up its movie game, an area that it has lagged in when compared to its TV achievements. That said, given how The Cloverfield Paradox was critically received, I can't help but worry that Warner Bros passing Mowgli off to Netflix ends up being indicative of the movie's quality. Fingers crossed that isn't the case, mainly because Mowgli feels incredibly different than Disney's The Jungle Book.
Along with Andy Serkis, Mowgli's cast includes Rohan Chand as the eponymous protagonist, Christian Bale as Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as Kaa, Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan and Naomi Harris as Nisha. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for an update on the movie's new release date, and if you're interested in what movies will arrive in a traditional theatrical setting later this year, look through our 2018 release schedule.