Remember a couple of years ago when you heard that there was not just one, but two "live action" Jungle Book movies on the way? Well, the second one is finally here. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is in select theaters now and on Netflix Dec. 7. So, you may be wondering how or if Mowgli and 2016's The Jungle Book connect, since it's only been two years since the latter was released.
Well, the two movies really have no connection other than being based on the same source material, Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book stories. The 2016 movie The Jungle Book and 2018's Mowgli went into development at around the same time; although Mowgli was actually first, according to Quartzy, The Jungle Book was able to be made sooner. Both movies have been referred to as "live action" versions of the story, as opposed to the 1967 animated movie, even though they feature a ton of motion capture and/or CGI. In The Jungle Book's case, there were technically only three human actors shown on screen: Neel Sethi as Mowgli, Kendrick Reyes as infant Mowgli, and Ritesh Rajan as Mowgli's father. Mowgli includes far more humans as it shows the lead character actually living in the village near the jungle.
Both movies do feature A-list casts. The Jungle Book included Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, Idris Elba, and Christopher Walken; Mowgli has Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Naomie Harris, and Andy Serkis, who also directed the film.
As for how they differ in their stories, The Jungle Book, directly by Jon Favreau, is much lighter and more like the animated movie come to life. It includes songs like "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You", keeps the character King Louie (who was created for the animated version), and doesn't show Mowgli in the man village. While the threat of Shere Khan is there, there's not a lot of suspense as compared to Mowgli.
Mowgli spoilers here. Like The Jungle Book, Mowgli shows the young boy grow up in the jungle with his wolf family, but in the new movie, he actually is forced to go live in the village, where the darkest and most serious parts of the film take place. It's in the village that Mowgli meets a white hunter, who not only has killed one of his wolf friends, but who also represents the British imperialism of the time period in which Kipling's stories were written.
In an interview with Collider, Serkis noted that the movie is not just more closely tied to some of the plots in the stories (for instance, there is a character Messua, who is a woman in the village, played by Freida Pinto), but also that it also shows an awareness of the time that Kipling wrote the stories in the late 1800s. "The layers of the film are very much more embedded with the time that the book was written and Rudyard Kipling as a writer, as a child of the empire, really, and a child of imperialism," he said.
Serkis also talked about how the movie has higher stakes: "Mowgli's journey is very much a visceral journey. It has real jeopardy and real consequence."
When it comes down to it, while the main characters are the same, the two takes on Mowgli's stories are very different, with the newer film being more serious and not as suited to very small children. "I think if you were to put this next to the Disney one, you wouldn’t even think that they’re the same story. They operate in completely different spheres," is how Serkis put it when speaking with Bustle. "Any classic piece of work... is worthy of reinterpretation. How many Hamlets have we seen?"