Antz VS A Bug’s Life, Armageddon VS Deep Impact, The Prestige VS The Illusionist: Sometimes movie ideas are like buses, you wait for what seems like forever and then two arrive at the same time!
This is certainly the case with The Jungle Book, as Rudyard Kipling’s famed children’s novel hasn't had a worthwhile re-imagining since 1967. The announcement of two separate adaptations (One from Disney, the other from Warner Bros.) raises two important questions: Is there enough room in the world for two major Jungle Book movies to be successful and, if not, which one will be hailed king of the jungle?
These questions are even more important now that Disney’s The Jungle Book and Andy Serkis’ Jungle Book: Origins have both bulked out their cast lists – and the head-to-head match ups are causing a real rumble in the jungle…
Director: Andy Serkis VS Jon Favreau
This may seem a real David and Goliath-esque battle, as Jon Favreau is a certified hit director. From massive Disney properties such as Iron Man to his own indie flick Chef, he usually connects well with his audience. But, he’s not perfect, as Iron Man 2 caused a lot of friction between fans as a weak middle installment to Tony Stark’s trilogy.
Andy Serkis, on the other hand, has never (that’s right… never!) directed a movie before, and has set himself a huge task by adapting Rudyard Kipling’s much loved source material. However, Serkis is the undisputed champion of motion capture, having played King Kong, Gollum (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), and Caesar (Planet of the Apes reboots). As both versions are going to be live-action, could his masterful knowledge of the technology turn out to be Disney’s Death Star weak spot?
Who will be the best Jungle Book director?
Bagheera: Christian Bale VS Ben Kingsley
As a Shakespearian actor, Ben Kingsley is a fine addition to any cast. In terms of voice acting, he features in The Boxtrolls and in the hit videogame Fable III. His voice is also quite similar to Sebastian Cabot’s, who perfectly voiced Bagheera in the 1967 version.
BUT Christian Bale as Bagheera is an inspired casting choice. He’s got exactly what it takes to play Mowgli’s straight-edged protector because he has the acting range to play characters with honor, passion, strength, and intelligence - all at the same time! His role as Gotham’s protector will serve him well when it comes to voicing Mowgli’s reluctant guardian. He also voiced characters in Howl's Moving Castle and Pocahontas, so as hard as I'm trying to give a balanced perspective, surely Bale’s Bagheera is the outright winner on this one? (Sorry, Kingsley!)
Who will be the best Bagheera?
Baloo: Andy Serkis VS Bill Murray
Again, Serkis is the master of motion-capture acting and, even if his directorial skills aren't finely tuned, playing Baloo is going to be a walk in the park for the mo-cap veteran. There should be no doubt that his physical acting will be unrivalled by anybody in either movie but, unfortunately for Serkis, he’s matched up against the great Bill Murray.
Bill Murray could play a plank of wood and, as long as he’s invested in the role, it would still be full of life and charm. Not only that, but he has an ever-increasing fan base. In pretty much any head-to-head, Bill Murray should always be the victor. However, we can’t forget that Murray once voiced Garfield and it was, to put it kindly, a pretty soulless performance.
Who will be the best Baloo?
Kaa: Cate Blanchett VS Scarlett Johansson
Interestingly enough, both movies have cast Kaa as a female. You can hear Blanchett’s Galadriel narrating in The Lord of the Rings, where she displays a hypnotic voice that might really work for the scaled predator.
Similarly, Scarlett Johansson has been praised massively for her seductive voice talents in Her. So, for this head-to-head, it all depends whether you’d prefer Kaa to sound more seductive (Johansson) or hypnotic (Blanchett). It’s a really tricky match up, especially as both actresses are capable of stand-out performances.
Who will be the best Kaa?
Shere Khan: Benedict Cumberbatch VS Idris Elba
In another incredible rivalry we have Cumberbatch, another man who (just like Blanchett) has no doubt been recruited by Serkis due to his Lord of the Rings ties. Audiences thought Cumberbatch was great as the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and he’s got a fanbase that could just put him as the frontrunner for the best Shere Khan.
Also playing the central villain will be Idris Elba, a man whose voice is coated with Masculinity. Andy Serkis’ adaptation sounds like it will be darker than Disney’s effort, so this is probably the most important role in Jungle Book: Origins. Although we are used to Mowgli being fairly happy-go-lucky, Kipling’s novel builds up the rivalry between Khan and Mowgli much more, with both characters vowing to kill the other. With this in mind, Elba probably has the juicier, more frightening role to work with.
Who will be the best Shere Khan?
Nisha/Rakcha: Naomie Harris VS Lupita Nyong'o
Although their characters have different names, Naomie Harris’s Nisha and Lipita Nyong’o’s Rakcha are actually the same character. As Mowgli’s mother figure, they will be required to play a heartwarming creature that can also be fierce. Harris has proven she can be kick-ass in movies such as 28 Days Later and Skyfall, while Nyong’o is still a rising star. Having said that, what a star! Her first ever feature role won her an Oscar and now she’s going to be part of Star Wars: Episode VII.
Who will be the best mother wolf?
For me, Disney’s cast is more exciting, especially if you include acting legend Christopher Walken as King Louie (who won't be featuring in Jungle Book: Origins because he is an invention of Disney's that never featured in Kipling's book). However, by creating another fun-loving, whimsical adventure for Mowgli, don't they risk making their own reboot unnecessary? I mean, If we want to see a laugh-a-minute, upbeat jungle adventure, why not just re-watch the 1967 animation?
So, that leaves us with Jungle Book: Origins, and although Andy Serkis debuting as director is a risk, having Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Benedict Cumberbatch by his side should be enough for us to stay optimistic. With a cast like that, Jungle Book: Origins promises to be off the chart with intensity. It means that even if Serkis fails to make a movie worthy of the incredible source material, at least he’s trying something new. This way, Origins might even further our enjoyment of that classic story we already know and love.