Given the runaway success of Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book (both with critics and at the worldwide box office, where it's racked up well over $800M in ticket sales over the past month), you've gotta wonder if Andy Serkis - who's also in the process of making a live-action/CGI Jungle Book adaptation - has had a few moments of doubt.
Put yourself in his shoes. You might wonder if Favreau's film can be improved upon. You might wonder if audiences really need or want another Jungle Book movie so soon after getting their socks blown off by Disney's version. You might wonder, quite frankly, if there's any point in pushing ahead.
But not Andy Serkis. He's got a plan to set his Jungle Book aside from Favreau's take, and it's...well, here's what he said to Vulture:
"Ours is for a slightly older audience...It's a PG-13, more a kind of Apes movie, a slightly darker take, closer to Rudyard Kipling's." Serkis said that movies these days are too cautious when it comes to children. "Which is wrong," said Serkis. "It’s great to scare kids in a safe environment because it’s an important part of development, and we all loved to be scared as kids, so we shouldn’t overly protect them."
"Kids are so sophisticated, and that is why our Jungle Book is quite dark. ... It’s a story of an outsider, someone who is trying to accept the laws and customs of a particular way of living and then has to adapt to another culture, a human culture, which of course he should be able to adapt to, because this is what he is. So it’s about two different species and their laws and customs, and neither are entirely right."
My immediate response to this quote involved a lot of eyerolling.
But the thing is, I think Serkis is probably wise to do everything he can to differentiate his Jungle Book from Disney's. No one's going to replicate Favreau's version and top it any time soon, so why even bother trying? Why not offer up something a little different? If it's as true to the source material as Serkis says it is, then, yeah, sure. Go right on ahead. When this thing's finished, we'll have three different Jungle Book adaptations (including the animated '67 version), each offering a varying degree of kid-friendliness.
These days, it's easy to scoff at projects which announce themselves as "darker and grittier than X", because we've seen that approach not work on a number of occasions. Darker does not equal more enjoyable, more adult, or more valid. But given the circumstances and Serkis' track record, I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
What do you guys think?