The Animal Kingdom Is The Anti-X-Men Mutant Sci-Fi Epic We Need

By Charlene Badasie | Published

the animal kingdom

The X-Men aren’t the only mutants to take the big screen by storm. The 2023 French-Belgian sci-fi fantasy adventure film The Animal Kingdom puts a different spin on the familiar premise. Directed by Thomas Cailley from a script he co-wrote with Pauline Munier, the story is set in a world grappling with a mysterious wave of mutations that are transforming some people into animals.

The Premise

the animal kingdom

The Animal Kingdom follows Francois (Romain Duris) who is determined to save his wife, Julia (Adele Exarchopoulos), who is afflicted by this condition. With their 16-year-old son Emile (Paul Kircher), Francois visits a nearby forest where some of these transformed beings have disappeared. This quest becomes a transformative experience that alters their lives forever.

Thomas Cailley

The Animal Kingdom marks Cailley’s second feature film following his award-winning debut, Love at First Fight, in 2014. The screenplay, based on an original idea by Munier, was crafted before the Covid-19 pandemic. Production was helmed by Pierre Guyard of Nord-Ouest Films, with David Guyard serving as director of photography and Lilian Corbeille handling editing.


Filming began in May 2022, primarily in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, including Landes, Dordogne, and Gironde. The shoot lasted 57 days and concluded in mid-August, with estimated production costs ranging between 13 and 15 million euros. Financial support was provided by the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC), a governmental agency promoting cinema.


The Animal Kingdom premiered as the opening film of the Un Certain Regard section at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in May 2023. Following its festival debut, it was theatrically released in France by StudioCanal in October 2023. The film was also featured at the 28th Busan International Film Festival in the Open Cinema section.

The film received positive reviews from critics and audiences. On Rotten Tomatoes, The Animal Kingdom holds an impressive 77 percent critics rating alongside an 83 percent audience score. The film also received 12 nominations at the 49th César Awards. It took home five trophies, including Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Original Music, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects.

Much Older Than The X-Men

the animal kingdom

When asked about the potential influence of X-Men on The Animal Kingdom, Thomas Cailley responded with thoughtful insight, emphasizing the timeless nature of the human-animal hybridization motif. I think the metaphor of hybridization between humans and animals goes much further back than comic books and the X-Men and the Marvel Universe,” he said.

Cailley cited ancient depictions of animal-human hybrids found in prehistoric cave art to highlight the enduring presence of this theme throughout human history. “There are animal-human hybrids on the walls of prehistoric caves. So it’s a very, very old story that goes back to the time when we still thought of ourselves as belonging to the vast world that we now refer to as nature,” he added.

The Animal Kingdom’s Characters Aren’t Superheroes

Exploring the cinematic evolution of this theme, Cailley noted two distinct directions. One portrays humans as monstrous beings after transforming into animals. The other depicts humans with animal abilities as superheroes like the X-Men. However, he stressed that The Animal Kingdom aimed to have characters who would be neither monsters nor superheroes.

“And that’s why as soon as a character takes on an animal characteristic or trait, he or she loses a human characteristic or trait. And that keeps our characters somehow incomplete in their nature, which I think is the basis of our humanity,” Cailley said of The Animal Kingdom.

Other Non-X-Men Movies With Mutant-y Characters

the animal kingdom

Other movies about mutant-like characters that are not part of the X-Men franchise include Chronicle, Sky High, The Darkest Minds, Firestarter, and Push. These stories all involve individuals with superhuman abilities, but they are nothing like the hybrids seen in the very unique film The Animal Kingdom.

Source: Gizmodo

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