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Why Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle Is Much Darker Than Previous Jungle Book Adaptations

Shere Khan Benedict Cumberbatch Mowgli Legend of the Jungle

Many will be quick to point out that Andy Serkis' Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle is the second adaptation of The Jungle Book that we've seen in the last few years -- but it should be noted that the new movie is actually quite different in that it takes a much darker approach in its tone. Because of the natural comparisons to Jon Favreau's film, you might think that this was specifically done to create a specific contrast, but according to Serkis, it was more about the project's relationship with Rudyard Kipling's original source material:

The Jungle Book is something that you probably read when you're about 12 or 13. You wouldn't try and read that book if you were any younger. I mean, I certainly tried when I was younger, it was really hard. But that's the age where you first start to... you know, the metaphor of that book and the allegory of the book, I suppose, it starts to unfold as you get slightly older, and then you go back and reread it, and obviously there are other things that you plug into.

I had the immense pleasure of sitting down with Andy Serkis late last month during his new film's Los Angeles press day, and it was during the interview that I brought up the subject of the movie's tone. I was specifically curious about where the filmmaker drew the line in terms of Mowgli's darker elements, and he explained that his approach included consideration of the proper age to read Rudyard Kipling's classic collection of short stories.

Brought to life with the magic of performance capture, Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle is a retelling of the classic story, with Rohan Chand in the lead role. Mowgli is left alone in the jungle when he is a baby, but after being rescued by the panther Bagheera (Christian Bale) he is raised as a member of powerful wolf pack. He is mostly accepted as the resident "Man Cub," however, the ferocious human-hating tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) is constantly lurking in the shadows and waiting for his chance to kill him.

Clearly this isn't the most sunshine-y story anyway, and in the development of Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle Andy Serkis always knew exactly what movie he wanted to make. He acknowledged during the interview that he could have taken a step further and created an adults-only take on the source material, but that was never the plan. Said Serkis,

I knew from the script, you could read it on the page. That was the thing that was commissioned, and that was the DNA of the whole project. So it was never... unless I wanted to make it an R-rated movie. [laughs] I could have done that.

This leaves us with the big question: if Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle is a darker take on The Jungle Book than most adaptations, how old is old enough to watch it? Obviously every child is different, and parents will have to make their own judgement calls, but Andy Serkis believes that children eight-years-old and older will be able to watch the film without it being too much for them:

I think we always felt it was for kids from about the age of eight upwards, I thought, I do still believe will be safe watching this movie, and they won't find it too intense or frightening.

You can watch Andy Serkis talk about establishing and executing the tone of Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle by clicking play on the video below.

In addition to featuring Christian Bale as Bagheera and Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan, Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle (opens in new tab) features even more awesomeness in its cast with Andy Serkis as the bear Baloo, and Cate Blanchett as the mysterious snake Kaa. You'll soon be able to witness their adventures, as the film arrives on Netflix this Friday, December 7th.

NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.