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Andy Serkis on Tuesday introduced a first look at Warner Bros.’ Mowgli at CinemaCon in Las Vegas with two and a half minutes of material that revealed a dark, gritty live-action/CG retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book — and a distinctly different look and feel from Disney’s 2016 adaptation of the classic story.
“People are so used to the 1968 [Disney animated version],” said Serkis, who directed the film and also plays Baloo the Bear. “This is trying to delve into Kipling’s book and the journey for Mowgli as a outsider, as an other, trying to find his identity.”
Part of that journey, he said, is how the boy is mentored as he goes from an orphaned child to a leader in the jungle. The clips showed Mowgli as a baby and residents of the Indian jungle, including Shere Khan and Kaa.
The preview appeared to be well received by the CinemaCon crowd. Still, with two Jungle Book films already released, Mowgli is a risky venture. Disney’s Jon Favreau-directed Jungle Book was a critical and financial success when it opened in 2016, earning strong reviews and collecting $966.6 million worldwide and an Oscar for its visual effects. A sequel is in the works, though Favreau is currently busy helming his next feature, Disney’s The Lion King.
At CinemaCon, Serkis was joined onstage by Mowgli castmembers Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Shere Khan; Cate Blanchett (Kaa); Matthew Rhys (John Lockwood); and Rohan Chand (Mowgli).
As an actor, Serkis has plenty of performance-capture experience, from playing Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films to Caesar in the Planet of the Apes franchise. “Andy is the undisputed master of this form,” said Cumberbatch. “And he’s a fantastic storyteller who understands character and motivation.”
Blanchett — who first worked with Serkis on Lord of the Rings — related that the first thing she did to prepare for her role as Kaa was to watch an online clip of an anaconda battling a crocodile. “Wow, the croc lost,” she said.
Saying that he grew up reading Kipling’s stories, Chand said the film was a “great opportunity to explore Mowgli and delve into his character.”
Mowgli is set to open Oct. 19.
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