A few months back we had talked about the movies released in Hollywood based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous story The Jungle Book, and the upcoming live-action film being planned by Disney with Jon Favreau in discussions to take on the director’s role, in our post Another Movie on The Jungle Book? Since then, Favreau has indeed stepped into the director’s shoes and the fans of Mowgli & Co. could well be enthusiastic to get a chance to relive the adventurous tale once again, which is planned for an October 2015 release. Warner Bros. were working too on a script on the same book, though the Disney version seemed to be the one that would grab more eyeballs. That could very well change now. Because of the introduction of one man, Ron Howard.
Warner Bros. had initially got Alejandro González Iñárritu on board for the project, which seemed a strange though interesting decision at the moment. Strange because Iñárritu, while a terrific director, has worked on much darker themes in his past movies such as Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and Biutiful; movies that are miles away from the warmth and sunshine that a Jungle Book film would be expected to carry. Interesting because of the same reasons, that maybe we have had too many of those dancing and singing animals, and maybe it was time to bring in a darker dimension to a tale which definitely has potential to go in that direction. But now as it turns out, Iñárritu who is currently in the post-production work of the Edward Norton film Birdman (which incidentally is a comedy film), has opted out of the Warner Bros. movie due to scheduling conflicts. So who do we call? The big man himself, Ron Howard.
As per Hollywood Reporter, Ron Howard is in talks to direct and produce Warner Bros.’ live-action take on The Jungle Book. If this deal gets confirmed, it would make us shriek in delight. Literally. Howard is a master in capturing the human emotions, varied as they may be, and presenting them in a tightly packaged movie which never seems to have any loose ends. His latest film Rush on the dual between two Formula One drivers has to be one of the most overlooked movies of 2013. But for those who did watch it, the brilliance of the masterful story-teller would not have been lost on them. The story of The Jungle Book has a range of emotions buried in it, expressed by man and animals, of love, grief, fear, bravado, friendship, to name a few. 1967’s animated film by Walt Disney Productions had done much justice to it, though no live-action film made afterwards could claim to have lived upto the expectations. In the hands of Ron Howard, it is difficult to perceive how things could fail this time.
It has been a long time since Howard has worked with something in the fantasy-adventure genre. One has to go back more than a decade to 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey, when Ron Howard dabbled in something aimed for a family get-together. But back in the 1980s, Howard had worked on two memorable fantasy-themed films, the first being the popular Splash which had a young Tom Hanks falling for a mermaid, and the second was Willow where a reluctant dwarf is thrust into a role to protect a baby from an evil queen. In 1989, Howard also made the family comedy film Parenthood before he started drifting more into serious-toned films, be it crime thrillers or biopics. It would thus be great to get Howard back into the realms of fantasy again, for who does not want to see how Howard works with a talking panther and a bear?
If Warner Bros. plan to matchup to Disney’s timelines, they will have to get things moving quickly. The screenplay for the film has been written by debutant Callie Kloves, and once Howard comes on board, development of the film should pick up pace. It would be interesting to see however what kind of a timeline Warner Bros. are looking at. Releasing two movies on Mowgli around the same time does not make for a good business plan, especially in the year 2015 which itself is filled to the brim with “must watch” movies. Howard is currently involved in the post-production work of his next feature film, Heart of the Sea starring Chris Hemsworth, which has a March 2015 scheduled release date. He is also set to work on Dan Brown’s latest novel Inferno which will see him tie-up with Tom Hanks for the umpteenth time. Howard is also scheduled to direct Mena, the true story of pilot Barry Seal, who transported contraband for the CIA and the Medellin cartel in the 1980s. So where does that put the Jungle Book film in his priority list? Things should get clearer as we move further on, giving us time too to get ready for the arrival of Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo and others. Mr. Favreau and Mr. Howard, we hand it over to you.
[UPDATE: It ain’t Ron Howard after all; Warner Bros. has decided to hand over the duties to Andy Serkis, who would be making his directorial debut with this film. Do us proud, Mr. Serkis!]