This film was originally slated to be released late 2016, but after information was released that Disney would be releasing a live-action remake of its animated film The Jungle Book, the release date was pushed back to 2018.
The original Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling is actually an anthology of separate tales, with Mowgli's story being just one of them. This is one of the few adaptations that reflects this, being titled simply Mowgli instead of The Jungle Book.
Shot on location in South Africa and at the Warner Brothers' Leavesden Studios in the U.K. According to director Andy Serkis, the film-makers created an entire village set in South Africa. This is in strict contrast with Disney's popular 2016 "The Jungle Book", which was shot 100% in LA studios.
Shere Khan is finally portrayed with his book counterpart's limp. He is still a fearsome threat to Mowgli, however. Adventures of Mowgli referred to Shere Khan as being lame but it ended up being more of an informed flaw with no noticeable limp while here it is shown in full.
Was originally set for a October 19th, 2018 wide release, before selling to Netflix only a few months before the release date. Netflix set the new date for the following year. The motive behind this unprecedentedly large Netflix acquisition is probably best explained by the unexpectedly poor reaction the movie would have had, had it undergone an ordinary cinema release, being unfairly tainted as it was by the hugely popular 2016 Disney version of the story. However, on November 8th, 2018 Netflix announced that the film will remain as a 2018 release, for November 29th in select theatres in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and London. The following week, the streaming service will debut the film globally on December 7th, with additional theatrical screenings expanded in the U.S. and the U.K.
There are characters who were only made for this movie: Bhoot, the albino wolf cub and Mowgli's best friend, and John Lockwood, the English hunter named after Kipling's father. However, the original book did feature a hunter named Buldeo.
In the trailer, Bagheera implies in that he found Mowgli, which was the case in the Disney film, but not in the book, where Mowgli, as a toddler, wandered to the wolves' den while Shere Khan chased his parents away.
Cate Blanchett delivers the opening monologue as Kaa, very similar to how she provided the opening words to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring as Galádriel. Kaa and Galádriel share a great deal of similarity, being very old (possibly ancient) goddess-like characters, whose wisdom and countless experiences provide a narrative framework for the history leading up to current events.
There are a lot of comments above about actors voicing the characters in this film. According to Andy Serkis, they play the role in an motion capture environment. Therefore, although you don't see the human, they are acting the role just as Andy Serkis did in all his motion capture roles, like Gollum and King Kong.
Tabaqui, Shere Khan's lackey, is portrayed as a hyena in this version. This is not the first adaptation portraying Tabaqui as a hyena rather than a jackal: the anime series The Jungle Book also portrayed him as a striped hyena, whereas in the 1998 The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story he was a spotted hyena (a species not found in India).
The original Kipling Jungle Book was actually an anthology of separate stories with Mowgli's being only one of them. The film is one of the few adaptations that reflects this, naming the film simply Mowgli.
Just like in the original book, Kaa is portrayed as a being feared by the rest of the jungle. Baloo teaches Mowgli that Kaa is the only one that the Monkey-People are afraid of, and sure enough, not only are the monkeys too terrified to stop the python from protecting Mowgl but even Shere Khan backs down when she demands him to.
According to Serkis, the monkeys do not talk in this movie. Interestingly, the 2016 Disney movie made the same artistic choice, where King Louie is the only Bandar-log who can talk. The Bandar-log are described as being a chaotic people, not possessing nor obeying any laws, and thus being very dangerous in their own right.
This version of Baloo is a stern teacher meets drill sergeant nasty, harsh and demanding with Mowgli, as far from the beary funny disney character as possible. He also looks scarred, rugged and has a deep, grating voice.
While a toady in the book, Tabaqui had fits of madness that caused him to bite everything in his path, and even Shere Khan avoided him during those episodes. Before his final confrontation with Shere Khan, Mowgli himself acknowledged Tabaqui to be a cunning spy for the tiger. The film makes no mention of any fits of madness, nor does Tabaqui demonstrate any cunningness that would make him that invaluable to Shere Khan.
The film's new release date announced by Netflix for December 7th, is only 7 weeks later than its originally scheduled date. The earlier screenings in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and London, premiere a week before that on November 29th, giving the film only a 6 week gap from its originality scheduled date.
In this movie, Bagheera finds baby Mowgli and takes him to the wolves, which was also the case in the Disney film, but not in the book, where Mowgli, as a toddler, wandered to the wolves' den while Shere Khan chased his parents away, with no involvement from Bagheera.
Shere Khan dies when Mowgli stabs him in the head with a knife, in the novel version he dies differently when Akela, Grey Brother and Mowgli trap Shere Khan in a narrow canyon and incite a buffalo stampede ultimately trampling him to death.
The hunter's name is John Lockwood, named after Rudyard Kipling's father. If he is meant to be the same person, it implies John survived his encounter with Hathi and will tell the stories of Mowgli to his son Rudyard who went on to write the Mowgli stories.
Second time Shere Khan dies in a Jungle Book film, he died in the 2016 version, when he fell into a fiery inferno after falling from a tree when the branch broke, his fate is unclear in The Jungle Book 2 (2003) when he gets trapped in a giant skull/statue next to lava.
Akela dies after he does a heroic sacrifice, leaping at Shere Khan and pushing him away as he's about to pounce Mowgli, and getting hit by Lockwood's rogue bullet. In the book he survives the confrontation with Shere Khan, and dies much later, in The Second Jungle Book during the battle against the dholes.
Despite his age, Akela is still able to defend himself against several younger wolves when his leadership of the pack is challenged, and holds his own for a respectable period of time until Mowgli intervenes. Even afterward, he still commands enough respect that some of the wolves along with Baloo and Bagheera still remain loyal to him.