Virtually every probability he gets, director Andy Serkis stresses that Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is darker than any previous adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. He insists that Mowgli is, in fact, a more honest illustration of Kipling’s stories than the popular1967 Disney animated classic or its 2016 live-action remake.
Mowgli, which was released on Netflix on December 7, is hardly the first film to receive such treatment. As the world becomes harder to grasp - with economic, social and political upheaval influencing all our lives - films evolve to reflect these realities. In the ‘60s, films such as Night of the Living Dead commented on the civil rights movement within the US. Its 1978 sequel, Dawn of the Dead, was a stinging critique of shopper culture.
In some ways, the blockbuster films of our times - a post 9/11 world stuffed with psychosis and concern - have spoken concerning the quickly widening cracks in society, whether they are racial, ethnic, or supported one's gender. Thor: Ragnarok and Warcraft were about the refugee crisis, whereas the Jason Bourne and therefore the James Bond movies are directly influenced by our paranoid times.
Serkis in Mowgli comments on everything from the fear of ‘otherness’ to the damage that colonialism inflicted on certain countries, most notably India. To choose the Jungle Book as the vehicle for these ideas is exactly what you’d expect from a talented storyteller such as Serkis.
Here are five more examples of stories that are on paper aimed at children, but are hardly meant for them.
Where the Wild Things Are
Director Spike Jonze’s fantasy film tells a story concerning childhood but is meant for adults. Made on a staggering $100 million budget (which it barely recouped) and injected with a melancholic tone that quickly erased any possibility of a child actually enjoying it, where the Wild Things are is one amongst the best example of bold, risky studio filmmaking. Although rumours at the time instructed that neither Jonze nor Warner Bros was happy with the film.
Rare Exports is a dark Finnish horror fantasy about a group of explorers that discovers a twisted secret about Santa Claus. It’s a rather subversive take on a beloved childhood figure, whom the film depicts almost as a mountain troll.
With a lavish Netflix/BBC adaptation right around the corner, now’s a good time to go back 1978 British animated film, supported Richard Adams’ twisted, representative story concerning bunnies caught in an exceeding web of religious symbolism and violence. The new, four-part series, directed by Noam Murro, can feature the voices of James McAvoy, John Boyega and Ben Kingsley.
Bridge to Terabithia
Bridge to Terabithia, along with Pete’s Dragon, is one amongst the foremost underrated fantasy films of the last 10 years. Based on Katherine Paterson’s 1977 novel of the same name, the film is concerning deep, dark themes like childhood trauma, coping mechanisms and death.
While each of the four feature films discharged by arthouse animation shingle, Laika Studios, deals with thorny themes, my personal favourite is that the existential steampunk comedy, The Boxtrolls. Unlike Laika’s other films - Coraline and ParaNorman and Kubo and therefore the two Strings - The Boxtrolls is a more universal film, less weird and therefore more likely to plunge through your vulnerabilities.