Remember when there were competing versions of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, before Disney’s version landed first, grossed $966M worldwide and spawned a sequel? Warner Bros screened a 2 1/2-minute trailer of the other film, now titled Mowgli (formerly titled Jungle Book: Origins) this evening at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Director Andy Serkis took the stage with stars Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Rhys and Rohan Chand to cue up the video for the film, which began principal photography in 2015. Beaten to the start line, the studio allowed Serkis to take his time and hone his vision, even enlisting the help of Gravity helmer Alfonso Cuaron as an unofficial advisor.
Serkis said his take on the Rudyard Kipling classic focuses on “the journey of Mowgli of being an outsider. Of being an ‘other’… through the search for identity he finds himself. Through the mentorship of all the different creatures that surround him, he eventually finds a way to go from this orphaned child to becoming a leader of the jungle.”
The opening of the video introduces us to Mowgli (played by Chand) trapped in a cage with Bagheera (played by Christian Bale) looking in from the outside. “I bit and I stretched and I spent my entire life fighting. Then one day I just stopped and I gained their trust. Gain their trust little brother, Bagheera advised.
The trailer also featured appearances by famous characters Baloo (Serkis), Shere Khan (Cumberbatch) and Kaa (Blanchett). “I think we both can agree that you are something the jungle has never seen before,” Kaa tells Mowgli in the clip.
Slated to open October 19, the darker-toned version follows the titular character, who is raised by wolves that teach him the rules of the jungle. Mowgli keeps company with a flighty but lovable bear named Baloo and a wary, protective panther named Bagheera. The film also features Naomie Harris, Freida Pinto, Peter Mullan, Jack Reynor, Eddie Marsan and Tom Hollander. Serkis is one of Hollywood’s most wildly talented tent pole talents — everything from King King to Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum, Planet of the Apes’ Caesar to a villainous turn in Black Panther — but reclaiming the Jungle Book conversation back from Disney might be his toughest feat.