... how disturbing Andy Serkis' Jungle Book animals are?
Really. I just saw the movie and it's just... I dunno. It could have been great; it had some really good elements, but it also has several problems and the biggest one for me at least was the animal's designs, just as I feared from watching the trailers.
It is clear that Serkis didn´t want his animal characters to be cuddly, which you know, it's perfectly ok. I have no problem with gnarly-looking animals. I have no problem with Baloo being sort of mangy-looking, or Tabaqui having all mated, dirty fur and being followed by a swarm of flies all the time; they are wild animals after all. The problem is most of the time they don´t look like real animals.
Take a look.
This is Mother Wolf (whose name was changed for some reason). She looks... okay, for this movie's parameters. You can recognize her as a wolf, albeit an obviously CGI one. But she's ok. She talks and it doesn´t look terrible. Still, there's something off about her proportions. This is a common problem to all the wolves in the movie.
Here you can see both Mother Wolf and Father Wolf. I like her design a lot more than his. I think he doesn´t look much like a wolf. In fact, they look like they belong to two different species.
Here's a closer look at him.
And here's another shot of Mother Wolf's far more lupine face as she turns around to face Tabaqui.
And here's Tabaqui who has once more been turned into a hyena, I guess because hyenas look scarier to people, and because a jackal looks too much like a small wolf I suppose.
He looks appropiately gnarly, but certainly doesn´t look like an Indian striped hyena. If anything he looks like a very small brown hyena with Gollumesque facial expressions.
Father Wolf again looking like a big, tired dog.
I actually like this shot, with the cavern and the landscape behind. Tabaqui takes a look at the wolf cubs. The movie LOOKS good, sometimes it looks spectacular, it's just the animals that don´t convince me. But because there's no adult wolves in this frame, Tabaqui actually looks good, even if in other shots we can see he's abnormally small.
The wolf cubs have strange badger-like stripes for some reason. In fact, many of the wolves in the movie have odd fur patterns (including some strangely giraffe-like ones) which I personally thought made them look too much like domesticated dogs. What's wrong with normal Indian wolf pattern?
I also like these frames because they sort of look like tenebrist oil paintings. Tabaqui actually looks pretty cool here I think, but unfortunately he is never portrayed as a threatening foe; he is always cowardly and submissive, cause hyenas are supposed to be lowly, right?
Look at how much taller the wolves look here, compared to the hyena cowering in front of them. Leaving aside the fact that the wolf's legs are out of proportion, why do people keep forgetting hyenas are bigger and burlier than the vast majority of wolves?
Seriously, here's a frame from that famous BBC documentary on Arabian wildlife, in which a hyena takes over a pack of wolves' food, and you can see the hyena and the wolf together. Indian wolves like those in the movie are similar in size to these Arabian wolves; they are somewhat smaller and lighter than hyenas, and look at the size difference between their heads!
Yet in the movie it looks as if the wolves tower over Tabaqui. It's almost like them filmmakers said "ok make him look like a hyena but keep him the size of a jackal"
Which sucks because they missed the opportunity of making Tabaqui a scary antagonist. In the novel, one of the wolves kills Tabaqui by snapping his spine, but that was jackal Tabaqui. Hyena Tabaqui would've been able to turn the tables on a wolf, but of course this will never happen because wolves are noble and badass and hyenas are cowardly punks. Some stereotypes never die, I guess.
Anyways, moving on, here's Bagheera looking weird because, human eyes. Here I was reminded of Mark Twain's famous quote, "if man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve the man but deteriorate the cat". Panthers have spectacular, beautiful yellow eyes; without them, Bagheera just looks... I dunno, strange.
Here's Father and Mother Wolf again. I just don´t get why Father Wolf looks so sad and tired and un-wolflike all the time. Is that what fatherhood does to you?
And here's Akela.
Also looking too humanoid for comfort. He even has eyebrows.
And then here's Shere Khan who most of the time looks less like a tiger and more like an old bearded man wearing tiger makeup and fangs.
He does look very creepy in several shots, I give you that. But in a sort of demonic, werebeasty kind of way. He doesn´t look like a real tiger. His mouth is very small, his fangs are very small, his face is very flat... I think this is my least favorite design in this movie and that's saying a lot.
Here's a wolf looking like Alfonso Cuaron's Harry Potter werewolf, with the super long, weird legs.
Here's when things got reaaaally creepy. Shere Khan has been turned into some sort of mutant with a small,shriveled, strangely humanoid arm which he moves in an eerily human-like manner. I get it that the book said he was lame of one leg but this seemed like a stretch to me. Why does he have to be a freak? So that we don´t feel bad for him when he dies? So that we hate him? Cause if so, it doesn´t work. When this Mowgli says things like "help me rid the jungle of the tiger" or "the tiger dies tomorrow", it made me hate Mowgli and remember how tigers have been on the brink of extinction for as far as I can remember.
Another spindly-legged wolf. The wolves' proportions are all over the place in this movie.
Akela looking anthro again. I don´t understand why he must have such a huge cranium. So that he looks smarter? Wiser?
This is Bhoot, a character invented for the movie. He's apparently a leucistic wolf pup but again, he doesn´t look like a wolf, he looks more like a chihuahua. He even has a chihuahua-like tail.
Here's a character who's actually supposed to look weird because there's this whole thing about him feeling close to Mowgli for being different, but.... why of all the wolves thus far only Mother Wolf actually looks wolfish?
Tabaqui again, looking miserable. This is one interesting scene in which Tabaqui and Mowgli have a brief conversation.
Bagheera with human eyes. Just... no...
This picture is actually kinda cool.
Very creepy humanoid Baloo. His face is practically hairless, I don´t know if he's meant to be mangy or just very old. I have seen pictures of hairless and semihairless bears but the problem is he looks more like a werebear. Which reminds me of how badly werebears have been treated in movies, what with Beorn being a major dissapointment in the Hobbit films or that Seventh Son movie completely wasting ex Mowgli Jason Scott Lee's werebear character. But I digress.
Mother Wolf suddenly looking more like a chihuahua than a wolf. Seriously, I used to have a chihuahua and she made that exact face.
For some reason the Bandar Log work for Shere Khan. And for some other reason, Shere Khan wastes time gloating to a semi-unconscious Mowgli instead of just killing him so of course he is foiled.
I just didn´t like this scene at all. So many things don´t make sense.
Shere Khan looking like a furry ET. Seriously, why make him into a freak??
Other than Shere Khan the worst design I think is Kaa's. Not only does she have a strangely cartoonish face with humanoid facial expressions, forward facing eyes and eyelids (she blinks several times), but she also looks very rubbery,even less realistic even than the other animals in the film.
You know something is very wrong when your snake looks less like a snake than the one in Anaconda.
Shere Khan looking again like an angry old man wearing tiger makeup.
He does look creepy here. But it's a demonic kind of creepy, not angry tiger creepy.
And here's an elephant looking nothing like an actual Indian elephant because I guess nobody likes what Indian elephants look like? Seriously, Disney's version also looked more like some sort of prehistoric pachyderm. Why?
I won´t say the movie is entirely bad because it isn´t, the cinematography is pretty good, and it rescues some aspects of the novel that aren´t touched in most adaptations... but damn it, it would've been so much better with more realistic animals!
I'm sure this one will have its fans, as it's dark and violent and gritty and whatever, but I personally felt this was far inferior to Disney's 2016 version (yes, even the action and fight sequences are better in that one), and a big part of it is the animals. I think it's an achievement that the Disney version had its animal characters talking and looking expressive without sacrificing their specific features, and that it managed to make them both sympathetic and ferocious; the wolves looked like wolves, the tiger looked like a tiger, the snake looked like a snake. Even with King Louie who clearly had Christopher Walken's eyes and expressions, he still didn´t look like a human wearing an ape mask. Instead, this movie's big achievement, in my opinion, was completely taking away the natural beauty of the animals it portrays, which is just sad, because tigers and panthers and wolves are magnificent beasts.
All that being said, I would love to see an Andy Serkis movie about werebeasts, tho. Honest. I think it would be terrifying.