Monday, January 20, 2014

Review of TARZAN: Strangely Lethargic

January 20, 2014

The story of Tarzan of the Apes written by Edgar Rice Burroughs had been interpreted in many films. We all remember those classic films from the 1930s starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan as Tarzan and Jane. In 1966, there was a Tarzan TV series starring Ron Ely. In 1984, there was a critically-acclaimed film version starring Christopher Lambert and Andie McDowall. In 1999, Disney gave us its own take on the story in its traditional 2D animation, with a pop musical score by Phil Collins. 

I was very surprised that this year, another film version was being announced in newspaper ads. I saw the name of Kellan Lutz, and thought this was a live action film, starring this Twilight actor who just recently took on another classic film character Hercules. It turns out this was an animated production from Constantin Films directed and written by its German producer Reinhard Klooss, using 3D motion capture technology.  Its run in local theaters were not in 3D though.

This incarnation of Tarzan gives the new generation an updated origin story. There is a comet from outer space that the Greystoke Energies company is planning to mine as an unlimited power source. Instead of the fatal shipwreck, we have a helicopter crash this time. The young JJ Greystoke here was already a talking toddler rather than a newborn baby when he was welcomed by the lonely ape Kala into her care. 

The whole first hour was rather bland and boring. There was a lot of scenes which were dedicated to the romance between Tarzan and Jane. Only later when the villain character Clayton (the new greedy CEO of Greystoke Energies) makes his appearance, it was only then that the action picked up, but not by much. The energy simply is not there for us to get involved.  Even the sight of Tarzan skiing down snowy mountain slopes with his bare feet was lacking in excitement.

The quality of animation is not at all bad, to be honest. The story though had already been told so many times, but the modern touches were too outlandish and yet also too familiarly derivative (the influences from the James Cameron film "Avatar" are too glaring to ignore) to appreciate as improvements. I must admit though, a certain modern day reference to Bob the Builder was hilarious.

This is not essential viewing, only when you have restless kids and nothing else to see at the mall on a lazy afternoon. Only an hour and half long, it will be enough to keep their interest. But afterwards, they will probably still remember the Disney version more. 4/10.

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