Since its release in 1967, The Jungle Book has brought joy to the hearts of children around the world. Despite some of the film’s more problematic elements it has carried on through generations thanks to its charismatic spirit and pure heart meant to instill warmth in the viewer.
The 2016 re-imagining amped up the excitement and fun as it brought the story into the modern age. Now with Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Netflix is looking to get in on the party, but while the film came dressed to impress it’s quickly apparent that it doesn’t know how to have fun.
Like its predecessors, Mowgli tells the story of the titular human child (Rohan Chand) who is raised by a pack of wolves after his family is slaughtered by the tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). Under the guidance of the bear Baloo (Andy Serkis) and a black panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale), he attempts to adapt to the ways of the jungle. But when he is forced to confront his origins, Mowgli must decide on his place in the world.
Mowgli makes a promising first impression with its visual effects. Director Andy Serkis made his name off of his memorable motion capture performances as Gollum and Caesar in The Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes franchises respectively, and he utilizes his experience in the technology to produce enthralling recreations of beloved characters. Each animal conveys who they are and their motives through simple facial details and movements. Kahn commands power and distrust as he slinks through the trees, and speckles of gray highlighting Bagheera’s chin support his mentor status to Mowgli.
Serkis and his team remove many of the barriers that often inhibit viewers from connecting with CGI characters. Serkis’ guidance of Chand is evident. The young actor’s interactions with his digital co-stars rarely feel like a facade. Whether looking into the eyes of a snake or being lifted by an elephant, Chand’s minute movements help the CGI feel tangible. It’s not something that you’ll actively notice on first viewing, but that’s the whole objective – it should fade into the background.
The visuals do have a dark side, however, one that the film is often too quick to indulge in. Mowgli separates itself from previous renditions of The Jungle Book with a PG-13 rating. This allows the movie to amp up the tension, and the persistent threats on Mowgli’s life are given more weight than one would expect from The Jungle Book.
It quickly begins to feel overbearing and depressing; the film is missing the heart one has come to expect from this tale. An infant Mowgli covered in the blood of his parents is a different visual than we would expect, but is it better or even necessary? It’s a question that comes up too many times while sitting through Mowgli.
The film doesn’t deserve to get lambasted just because it took the chance on a darker aesthetic. The new directions can usually justify retellings of familiar stories, but Callie Kloves’ screenplay wasn’t updated to match the film’s visual style. The plot is told with the familiar and simplistic trappings of a common children’s film. Mowgli shares the theme of self-discovery with the previous films, and it explores it as deeply as one would expect a ten-year-old.
These two clashing approaches leave one wondering who the film’s audience was meant to be. The PG-13 rating is intended to scare off younger ones from stumbling across a movie that features the taxidermy of a cute, childlike character, but the script doesn’t feature enough nuance to keep the more mature audience engaged. While Mowgli contains a little something for everyone, it ultimately feels like a film meant for no one.
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm