Warner Bros.’ Mowgli is the rare Hollywood film that has the curious misfortune of being released after another movie based on the same public domain property has already come out (in this case, Disney). After The Jungle Book, you might have forgotten that this version of the story from Andy Serkis was actually happening, but rest assured, it definitely is. You just may not be seeing it in theaters.
In a surprising turn of events, Deadline reveals that Netflix has bought the worldwide rights to the Andy Serkis-directed film, making it one of the biggest-profile acquisitions the upstart studio has made in its history. According to the report, “Instead of an October 19 theatrical release by Warner Bros, the film will be released globally on Netflix next year, with a theatrical component built in so that audiences can see the 3D version that Serkis has been working so hard on.” It’s unclear at this point just how that “theatrical component” will play out.
While you might think to yourself that there’s no sense in watching Mowgli, given that Disney recently put out a perfectly-fine live-action adaption of The Jungle Book that damn near made $1 billion at the global box office, remember that Mowgli is a Serkis movie. It’s not just that the majority of the film’s talking animals are being brought to life with mo-cap performances and vocal talents like Cate Blanchett, Naomie Harris, and Christian Bale—it’s all happening under Serkis’ watch. He told Deadline he didn’t want to rush the process to get his film out before Disney’s.
With the news, Serkis—who spoke to io9 about the project earlier this year—still seems very much excited by the project. “[Jungle Book author Rudyard] Kipling’s work has been interpreted in a lot of different ways, and his writing since his glory days back then has been somewhat vilified for his depiction of globalism,” he told Deadline. “There is a racist element to many of his stories and poems. You cannot ignore, though, that he wrote and reflected the political situation at the time, and in a mild way, the film examines emotions of class and colonialization of India.”
This is just the latest (albeit, the biggest) title among Netflix’s acquisitions of films intended for the big screen. There was, of course, the much-discussed Cloverfield Paradox, Extinction (which we just posted a review of), and Annihilation, the latter of which had most of its international distribution handled by the streaming service, to name a few. What are your thoughts on this new trend?