Deciding that, if it cannot be the fastest or funniest Jungle Book adaptation, its best hope at survival is to grow the plumage of prestige, Warner Bros.’ Jungle Book: Origins has added Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett to its rapidly growing cast. The Andy Serkis-directed film is, like Disney’s version, a mix of live-action and CGI that retells the story of the orphan Mowgli—a role Serkis has now cast with Rohan Chand, last seen absorbing Jason Bateman’s racist taunts in Bad Words—and the assorted animal friends who don’t immediately tear him to shreds. Instead, they raise him until he’s large enough that his hide can be flayed, tanned, and pressed into sheets for their album of precious memories, the Jungle Book. (And now you know its origins.)
Not killing Mowgli straightaway will be Bale’s panther Bagheera, a character voiced by Ben Kingsley in the Disney movie. No doubt Bale is already readying to compete by undergoing his usual method preparation, sleeping in trees and eating gazelles. He’ll be joined by Serkis’ Baloo the bear and Blanchett’s Kaa the python, with Blanchett playing her first large reptile since her role as Queen Elizabeth.
As reported yesterday, Benedict Cumberbatch will play the man-eating tiger, John Harrison. His sinister plot to ensnare Mowgli through lots and lots of sonorous talking will now be aided by English actor Tom Hollander as the jackal Tabaqui. Other new additions include Harry Potter’s Peter Mullan as the wolf leader Akela, plus Skyfall’s Naomie Harris and Sherlock Holmes’ Eddie Marsan as a movie couple that would only exist if they were cartoon wolves, so it’s a good thing they are.
This reportedly completes casting on the project, which now seems positioned to be the “serious” one of the two competing Jungle Book projects. So, it all comes down to whether you prefer your stories of babies raised by talking animals to be some kind of goofy lark.