The first trailer for Mowgli – an all-new live-action version of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale, directed by Andy Serkis – is here!
The first thing you’ll notice is that this adaptation promises to be a much darker telling of the story we know and love from The Jungle Book. Speaking with Andy Serkis ahead of the trailer’s launch, the actor/director outlined his vision for the film, which he says is tonally much closer to Rudyard Kipling’s work.
“We delve into Kipling’s world and tell a version of it that’s never been seen before. It’s very much Mowgli’s journey – the psychological and emotional journey of an orphaned boy who’s brought up in the jungle by animals, and who believes himself to be of that world, and then of course realises at a turning point that he is not one of them, that he is ‘other’ in fact.
“Our film is very much about identity and Mowgli’s journey to discover himself, because he realises that neither the world of animals nor the world of man – that we see a considerable amount of in this movie, which is where it differs from most interpretations – have rules, laws and ways of being that are completely right. There’s good and bad in both.
“The book is much darker and does delve into all these themes, and also represents Kipling’s own life as an outsider – someone who partially grew up in India, and partially in England, and was straddling these two worlds and not really knowing his real identity, too.”
“That was what interested me about Kipling, really, and about telling a story which was written in 1894 by a man who was a Nobel Prize-winning author, but was also considered to be a colonialist and imperialist. So there are very deep themes that run through our PG-13 version of The Jungle Book.
Suffice to say this version will be significantly different from the 2016 Disney live-action adaptation by Jon Favreau, and Serkis notes that Mowgli was originally scheduled to come out that same year, having completed principal photography in 2015.
“We were in post-production; Favreau’s version was coming out and we just decided we wanted to take more time in post,” he explains. “There was a time when both productions were neck and neck and it just seemed crazy to put ours out at the same time. Ours is a very different story – obviously the subject matter is similar, but in terms of the telling of the tale and the meaning of it, and the fact that it’s live-action and uses performance capture, it needed its very own space, and now seems to be the right time.”
Mowgli also differs from the Disney version in that it’s a hybrid of performance capture and animation.
“We shot the entire film with our A-list cast – Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris… We shot over a period of three weeks on proxy sets that were built,” says Serkis. “There were head-mounted cameras and we captured them facially, so they were interacting with Mowgli, who’s brilliantly played by Rohan Chand.
“We then went onto our real sets, which were partially built at Leavesden Studios, and on location in South Africa, with a team of motion capture artists on set, playing opposite him. So it was a combination – slightly different to the way Apes was shot, where you had an actor on location and set for the whole thing.”
The director, who also plays the character Baloo, adds that the extra post-production period allowed time to work on the facial capture of the actors.
“It’s a significant part of the movie. The level at which it’s been executed; the animals really are truly believable. We designed them to not be photo-real but to feel emotionally real and have the physiognomy of the actors in there.
“Weta did an extraordinary job with Apes, but this is slightly different when you think about taking Christian Bale’s face and turning him into a believable talking panther, or Cate Blanchett as a snake – it’s very different territory, really.”
Mowgli is in cinemas on October 18