Movie Review: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)

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Summary: A human child raised by wolves must face off against a menacing tiger named Shere Khan, as well as his own origins.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. The voice over cast is extremely good. I didn’t know who was in the movie before I watched it so I wasn’t really placing anyone. I then noticed Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch were in the movie and then I figured out who they were lol.
  • Rohan Chand as Mowgli. First of all, this kid is adorable. Extremely. I thought he did very well in the movie. There were a few times where it wasn’t coming through exactly like in the emotional moments but overall, I thought he managed to push through it. I like the moments where he’s quiet and he’s just watching because he has very expressive eyes. Some of my favorite moments was when he just got into the man village and he was learning everything, the camera would just watch him as he watched and learned and it was really beautiful. I also thought he did very well with reacting to the animals around him, showing his fear, his anger and the emotional bits. As I said, it didn’t always hit but I thought he did very well. He was very sympathetic.
  • Christian Bale as Bagheera. He is a black panther who finds Mowgli after his family was killed and takes him to the wolves. He becomes one of Mowgli’s mentors and friends. We also learn from him that he was born in human custody. Bagheera is kind and caring and while he believes in Mowgli, he’s also worried about him when it comes to living in the jungle with Shere Khan on the loose. Bagheera often makes choices that would protect Mowgli even if it seems harsh at the time. I knew I recognized his voice when I first started watching the movie, I think Christian Bale is great at voice overs (Howl’s Moving Castle anyone?) and his voice is so soft with honey like tones in the movie that it really works. There’s a great scene where Mowgli and Bagheera are talking about Bagheera’s history and it was a moving scene.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan. He is a crippled Bengal tiger and Mowgli’s arch-enemy. He’s ruthless and will do anything to get what he wants. I think with him being crippled (his front right paw is like bent back so he can’t walk on the pad of his paw). Benedict Cumbersnatch is good at voice acting, he’s played many a villain in motion capture. I thought the voice he put on for the character was sinister.
Supporting Characters. There are a lot of side characters, some whose names I didn’t retain but there are a few who might not constantly be in the film but they have important roles.
  • Cate Blanchett as Kaa. She is a python and a seer. She is the main narrator of the film and it seems that she is on Mowgli’s side. We see her mainly twice, once where she saves Mowgli and then another time when he goes to her and she shows him some important information. I guess she could be a “mentor” but she’s not around enough for me to really say that. Cate Blanchett is always a win and her voice is amazing as always.
  • Andy Serkis as Baloo. He’s not the Baloo we know from the Disney movies, but a grisly, drill sergeant teacher. His face has a lot of scars showing his life, which was cool, but he looked a little odd. We did get to see him fight a few times which was cool. I don’t think he and Mowgli had a relationship that rivaled what we’ve seen before but the role he played, where he encouraged Mowgli to be at his best. One of my favorite parts was during the Running and he freaked out on Bagheera because of what he did. Andy Serkis is always great in motion capture and he’s great here too.
Dark and Gritty. I’ve never read the book, it’s on my list and I don’t know the tone of the story but this is very different from the Disney versions which director Andy Serkis made clear. For one thing, Baloo is this grisly mentor instead of a happy-go-lucky friend. Also, with the hunter and how Mowgli ends up deciding between the village and the jungle that was pretty intense. The monkey scene as well, there isn’t a King Louis but the monkeys end up knocking him out while dragging him to their hideout, and Shere Khan leaves this giant scar down Mowgli’s arm… I mean it’s also a little bloody. I quite enjoyed it though. I also think there was a little more at stake here in that Shere Khan was doing things that would break jungle law. The Hunter storyline in general and what we learn about Bagheera.
Bagheera and Mowgli. I didn’t want to compare this to Disney’s The Jungle Book (2015) but in this case I kind of have too. In both Disney versions, one of the biggest praises is the friendship that Mowgli has with both Bagheera and Baloo. Obviously, they are on two different levels with Baloo being the fun-loving friend and Bagheera being the protective one, but this movie does it a little differently. Baloo and Mowgli aren’t really friends at all, but he and Bagheera are and I thought the relationship they had was beautiful. Bagheera truly cared about him and did everything he could to protect him even if it came off in the wrong way. The scene by the cage, that is one of my favorite scenes.
The Man-Village. This might be a little spoilery, but meh lol. I really enjoyed the scenes in the man village. Mowgli wakes up in a cage and just watches everything around him and we see how some of the people react to him as he is a little jungle baby. Then when we finally see him out and about in the village, there’s a great scene between him and Frida Pinto as she washes him and teaches him the ways of the village. There’s not a lot of dialogue that goes on while he’s there, mostly because he doesn’t understand their language (though I wonder since he understands the animals, can other humans understand them or how that works. I mean, it’s fine but I’m curious). Then they have a Festival of Colors and I want to go so bad lol, but it was great and to see him fall into it and enjoy himself. It was great. I really liked all of that stuff.
Cons:
Shere Khan’s Motives. I guess he doesn’t really need any but I’ve always thought the idea of him killing humans just to kill them was lame. I mean, sure, it’s a villain move, but he’s so hellbent on getting Mowgli because he missed him the first time without an actual cause? It doesn’t make for a very interesting villain personally. He keeps doing things that breaks the law of the jungle… but why? He didn’t necessarily need to say why, but it would have been nice to discover that.
A Little Too Dark. There were a lot of times in the movie where I couldn’t see what was going on. I shouldn’t have to adjust my TV’s brightness for the movie to be seen. It was really annoying a few times so I just had to shrug it off.
Weird CGI. I don’t think all of the animals looked that great. It was cool that they had scars and battle wounds ya know, they’ve lived in the jungle but some of them looked scary and not in a good way. I think particularly the wolves and Baloo didn’t look great.
Rushed In the Last Act. I prefer the first half definitely because I thought it was pretty well paced but the last half flew through the story. I liked the stuff in the village, especially when he was in the cage, but once he finds that stuff with Lockwood, it just goes so fast that it feels so different from the first half. His standoff with Shere Khan was so quick I was like… meh.
Overall, I quite enjoyed Mowgli: Legend of the Jungleand I tried not to compare it to Disney’s version in 2015 and yes, it’s very different. I thought most of the characters were interesting, particularly Mowgli, Shere Khan and Bagheera. All of the motion capture and voice over acting was handled really well and I thought Christian Bale really portrayed the character of Bagheera in an interesting, compelling and sympathetic way. I will also give Rohan Chand his props for playing Mowgli. This is his first leading role and I thought he handled himself really well, he’s really great to watch. I enjoyed the dark and gritty tone in that it felt like there were actual things at stake, the hunter storyline, the kind of frightening images and of course the monkey stuff lol. I also really loved the storyline between Bagheera and Mowgli, they seemed a lot closer in this version and it allowed them to have a different kind of relationship that was really emotional. The man village scene was beautiful, without the dialogue it really helps just watch Mowgli grow immersed. Now, I did have a problem with how dark the movie looked in that I couldn’t tell what was going on. The CGI wasn’t always the best. The last act was extremely rushed  after what I thought was nice pacing in the first two acts. Also, Shere Khan’s motives were kind of meh. I get it but meh. But it’s worth the watch if you love The Jungle Book.
Rating: 3.59 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Netflix’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle? If not, you should check it out, it’s worth the watch especially if you love The Jungle Book. If you have seen it, let me know your thoughts down below and let’s discuss!
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The Promise (2017) Review

THE PROMISE

Summary: Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.
**This film is kind of hard to talk about but I will do my best.
Pros:
The Cast and characters. We meet quite a few people but I’m going to stick to mentioning the three leads.
  • Oscar Isaac as Mikael Boghosian. He is the stand out, hands down. I love Oscar Isaac and I wonder if this was a pet project because I think he’s way to good for it. Mikael is an apothecary in his hometown, he goes to a city to be a medical student and he meets a few friends. He’s staying with his uncle and he meets Ana and immediately he’s smitten with her. WWI begins and he tries to avoid being drafted by getting a “medical student” exemption with the help of his friend. But that doesn’t last and he is sent to a prison labor camp. He manages to escape and finds his way back home. It seems like life has gotten together but the war has found him. So without going into more detail about the story, I think the amount of emotions Oscar Isaac puts into this character is fantastic. He starts off as this hopeful young man, who falls in love and we see him fall and it’s all downhill from there. Oscar Isaac has this magnetism that makes him stand out in anything he’s in. He’s charismatic and sympathetic and when he in emotional moments, man. He’s just so good. Again, I think he’s too good for the film.
  • Charlotte Le Bon as Ana Khesarian. She’s an Armenian woman who was raised in Paris. We first meet her at Mikael’s uncle’s house, she’s teaching his cousins how to dance. She is pretty, exotic in that she’s traveled outside of their home, she’s strong and is happy to claim her Armenian roots. She is strong and tries very hard to help those in need. However, it does feel at times that she is just there to be part of the triangle, or to be the object of Mikael’s eye. I think the actress is great but the character doesn’t remain that interesting. It comes and goes.
  • Christian Bale as Chris Myers. Christian Bale is always good I think, he’s an American reporter who is in Turkey writing articles about what’s happening. When the war kicks off, he gets involved and he tries chronicle the events, he even gets involved with trying to help orphans escape. He’s dating Ana. He also seems to have a few issues of his own in the beginning. He’s an interesting character, at first they make him come off as a “villain” but that goes away. I think Bale is good here, he’s kind of a low key character, they all are actually. Chris comes off as a brash, drunk American but as the film progresses, we see a smart man who tries to help those fleeing while trying to tell their story and stay alive himself. I almost thought he would be a bad guy in the love triangle but I didn’t think that happened.
Supporting Characters. There are a lot of supporting characters but we only get to see his parents, another woman, his uncle and family and his friend Emre who is also a medical student. They are all good, his mother though, Shohreh Aghdashloo is really good. She isn’t huge in the film but the parts she’s in, she’s fantastic.
The Look of the Film. This film looks really good. The costumes are nice, and while it’s in positive mode it feels happy. But when the tone shift and goes dark, the look of the film starts to shift with the tone which I think is cool. The story gets really heavy and it does not shy away from that, everything is crisp, it’s seen and I think that’s a plus for the type of film it is.
The Story. This is based on the true story of Turkey’s attempt to wipe out Armenians. Now, there’s been controversy surrounding it because that time period has been ignored and Turkey doesn’t claim their involvement but it’s so sad. It starts off by going in a different direction, we follow Mikael who wants to be a medical student, he falls in love with a woman who is with another man, then a war begins and he is thrust into it. It just takes off from there, and it’s emotional. I don’t want to spoil anything, but we see death, we see people who are fleeing for their lives, we see children be casualties of war and genocide and we see people try to fight back. It’s intense.
The Music. Gabriel Yared manages to make a score that is so sad. Due to the nature of the film, the music has to match that, especially as the tone completely changes after the first part of the film and I think he manages to add to the story. There are emotional scenes, that while sad, the music helps put it over the top. I didn’t cry, but I did do that thing where I covered my mouth because it was shocking and the music helped my senses.
The Romance. This will show up again later, but on one end, it’s kind of cute and you totally see it coming. The end has an emotional moment that ties in with the romance that’s a plus.
Cons:
Wasted Potential. There is a lot of wasted potential in this film. I know it’s based on true events, whether or not the people are real, I’m not sure, but I think there are parts that are way more interesting than others. The movie feels overblown because it wants to tackle everything that happens, when there are smaller storylines that were way more interesting. I think the film should have been told completely through Mikael’s eyes, it should have never strayed from him, that way it would feel more focused and we would be able to understand what’s happening through his eyes. It would be more contained and probably not be as “boring”.
The Love Triangle. So there is a love triangle in this film and it’s a focal point for the characters and I didn’t really care about it. For one thing, I don’t really like love triangles anyway, they’re so annoying. But I mean it understood it but I don’t think it added anything. It’s like those epic movies Titanic, Pearl Harbor where it’s based on true events but the characters have some type of love triangle thing going on and I don’t think it really adds anything to the story, especially from 1/3 of the triangle.
Boring. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie overall, but it’s boring. There are moments when it just lags, the pacing is out of whack a lot here. There are parts where there’s a lot going on, it’s so fast paced then it slows sooo down and I’m like “and now it’s gotten boring”.
Too Long. 2 hours and 13 minutes long, probably 20 minutes too long, I think 20 minutes  can do a lot. It just feels like it keeps going and going and going. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the pacing is weird, if they would have filled those moments in with something else, then maybe I wouldn’t have felt the length of the film.
Overall, I like this movie. I think it has a good cast, Oscar Isaac especially is a standout, he’s almost too good for the film. The film has a lovely look, the music adds ambience to the film while also being a support in the emotional moments. The story is very real and raw even with possible inadequacies. However, this film has a lot of wasted potential, while it is an “epic” it tries to hard to tell a story that might have been too big for this film, at least in the way it’s told. It’s very advantageous to tell a horrifying story like the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey but it just falls on it’s side in the story telling.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen The Promise? Are you interested? Let me know in the comments below.
What’s your favorite Oscar Isaac film? What movie were you surprised that he was in
Favorite Christian Bale film? Let me know in the comments below!