Today marks the first day of the new segment “Sunday In Depth” where I go in depth about a big movie that’s on the tip of every tongue and the brain of every film fan. This week I will be taking a closer look at the CGI wonder and unprecedented plot blunder that is The Jungle Book (the 2016 one). More specifically I will go ‘in depth’ with this film and how it will affect the 2018 Andy Serkis Jungle Book movie. It’s been announced for quite a while that Andy Serkis would direct his take on the classic Rudyard Kipling book. But will this film be forced to hide in the shadows of Jon Favreau’s critically acclaimed and box-office booming adaptation?
Andy Serkis is very well known for his remarkable list of CGI roles. This list spans from the Lord of the Rings franchise to Star Wars to The Planet of the Apes. He knows how to work with CGI and he knows how to do it well. CGI has gotten such a bad rep in the last decade, but the 2016 adaptation of The Jungle Book seemed to showcase that CGI can be fantastic. So could Andy Serkis’ film even come close to the level of CGI Jon Favreau’s film had. My guess is: yes. One of the more awkward aspects– at least according to a handful of critics– of the 2016 adaptation was that the CGI looked great, the voice acting sounded great, but they seemed awkward when paired together. And I had that very same stance. What Serkis does– or at least has done with previous projects– is to animate aspects of the ‘voice actor’ into the animation. Think of that funny YouTube video with Benedict Cumberbatch crawling around the floor with dots covering his body as he scowls his Smaug dialogue. That’s what Serkis usually does which could create less realistic animals, yet more natural characters.
The Andy Serkis adaptation is set to premiere on the 19th of October 2018 and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, and Christian Bale as a ensemble cast of interesting and fun jungle creatures. But wait! Jon Favreau’s version featured a big-name cast of actors and actresses as the jungle creatures too and that was one of the films’ biggest selling points… And so it seems will be the biggest selling point of the next adaptation. So which one has a stronger cast? If we take it character by character and start with most people’s favorite character: Baloo. In Jon Favreau’s adaptation Baloo was voiced by the quirky and funny Bill Murray who gave the character a very nice and cuddly personality. In the 2018 version Baloo will be played by Andy Serkis. I think that is a miscast. Serkis is by no means a bad actor, but I cannot see him playing a likeable and friendly character such as Baloo… I don’t see that happening. So I’m pretty sure Murray’s Benedict Cumberbatch will play the role of Shere Khan which in the 2016 version was voiced by Idris Elba. And boy was Idris Elba wonderful! But Benedict Cumberbatch too has a low and powerful voice and has shown his talent at CGI work in a fairly similar role. I think the Elba-Cumberbatch race will be tight. Very tight. Christian Bale will play Bagheera, the role recently voiced by Ben Kingsley. Christian Bale is a good actor, but I don’t think he would be able to top Kingsley’s nuanced voice performance, because I don’t think Bale has the same discreetness about his acting style that the protective and intelligent Bagheera should have.
But I think that the Andy Serkis adaptation will get one thing better than the Jon Favreau and that is the story. Jon Favreau’s film lacked in a strong story line and tried a little too hard to reference and hint at the old Disney film. But the Serkis film is written by the never-before-heard-of Callie Kloves and when a small screenplay is picked up by a big director that screenplay must be good and offer something new. And though the film is in post-production I doubt the film wouldn’t be reworked if Serkis and the creative team saw the same flaws in their film as the ones in Favreau’s. This film is also not a remake of the Disney classic so therefore it will be newer and provide a new version of the story and wouldn’t count heavily on the nostalgia waves that the 2016 film did.
So which film do I think will be better? I think they will be two distinctly different films and I think I personally will prefer the 2018 version directed by Andy Serkis. But I think the 2016 Favreau version will remain with stronger critic reviews and a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes.