Jon Favreau's Jungle Book for Disney is both a critical and financial success, with a 95% fresh rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and earning $830 million in global box office sales.
In what we can only imagine is related news, the competing Warner Brothers Jungle Book movie from director Andy Serkis has been pushed back by a year to 2018. Serkis has been talking about the film recently, saying that what will distinguish their film is that it will be “darker” in tone.
If you've seen Disney's Jungle Book then you may have noted that there are some genuinely grim and scary moments, particularly for children. Serkis said that his film would be far more aimed at adults, more along the lines of a Planet of the Apes movie. Yet, he also mentioned that it's sometimes beneficial to scare children.
I love Serkis and can't wait to see what he does as a director, but in all honesty it sounds as if both he and the studio now feel backed into a corner in a match that it's going to be very hard to win. If the idea is to create a film that's adult in nature, then why not make the one he's been aching to for years?
In an interview I had with him a few years ago Serkis expressed a desire to direct a motion capture film adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm. In some ways, his Jungle Book movie could serve as a proof of concept to get that passion project off the ground.
While Favreau utilized performance capture technology in the making of his film, it's primarily animation that we're seeing on the screen. Serkis' film is an opportunity for him to demonstrate what he's capable of doing with the technology.
Unfortunately, it may be doomed before it even hits theaters. If cinema history has shown us anything it's that when there are two competing films — meaning films that are either very similar or based entirely on the same source material — one inevitably wins. With the success of Disney's Jungle Book, the Favreau film has in essence already done so.
So is Serkis' Jungle Book destined to be the next Deep Impact to Favreau's Armageddon? In some ways, let's hope so, because in the history of two similar films being released in the same basic time period, both of the above did solid buisness. The latter was a smash hit and clear champion, however.
Let us not forget Wyatt Earp following in Tombstone's wake or EDtv as compared to The Truman Show.
As far as The Jungle Book is concerned, Warner Brothers is likely too far along to back out now. Though I'm not sure how much of the film has already been produced. It's a shame, though, because comparisons will be inevitable and the best course of action is to simply allow Serkis to complete his vision without studio interference that encourages him to manufacture a film that stands in sharp contrast to the Disney film.
The answer, particularly for Warner Brothers movies in the past few years, when faced with “competing” franchises seems to default to “make it darker.” Is it appropriate for the film, the story, and the audience, though?
Finally, what does “darker” mean, really? It's a broad term and easy to fall back on, which makes it creatively dangerous. More on that soon.
In the interim, Roth Cornet and Chris Eggertsen talk about the fate of Andy Serkis' Jungle Book and whether or not it's doomed before it even hits theaters.
Take a look in the player above or below and chat with us here or on Twitter.
Editor's note: I got caught up in our conversation and added the Planet of the Apes franchise into our discussion of Warner Brothers movies, it's a 20th Century Fox joint.