Tarzan
Director: Reinhard Klooss
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Robert Capron, Jaime Ray Newman
94 mins; Class U; KRS

Tarzan, first created by Edgar Rice Burroughs just over 100 years ago, remains one of the most popular literary characters of all time. His story has been told countless times in the extensive book series by Burroughs himself, and on TV and in cinema, culminating in the successful 1999 Disney cartoon, which spawned a couple of direct-to-video sequels.

When the rights held by Disney to the character expired, they were snapped up by the man behind this latest retelling, writer, producer and director Reinhard Klooss. Klooss created 2010’s Animals United, also set in the African jungle.

Klooss’s aim was to create a modern-day reimagining of Tarzan. While his basis for a new take is really interesting, the combination of rather basic effects and motion-capture animation has resulted in a clumsy and clunky look which do not distract from the rather facile and unexciting story.

Set in the present day, we meet entrepreneur John Greystoke and his wife who are on an expedition in the remote African jungle, in search of the site where allegedly, 70 million years ago, a meteo-rite crashed, leaving behind a mysterious energy source.

His search proving fruitless, John and his wife and son J.J., board a homeward-bound helicopter. But tragedy strikes and the helicopter crashes, killing all aboard except J.J. who is taken in and raised by a band of gorillas. Having made the jungle his own and adopted the name Tarzan (ie, ape with no hair), 10 years later Tarzan meets two human beings: Jane Porter, who enhances his way of life; and ruthless corporate business man William Clayton, who threatens its existence.

It is surprising to note the rather basic motion capture

The opening sequence certainly grabs the attention as a blazing meteorite crashes through the sky hurtling towards herds of majestic prehistoric creatures roaming the earth below, oblivious that their fate is sealed forever, as they are wiped out by the colossal crash that follows.

It’s downhill thereafter, as, with uncanny similarity to Pompeii, the other fiery disaster-based movie which opened this week. Once the humans get in the way of the story, it is all rather disappointing, both from an animation point of view and a storytelling one.

It is safe to argue that computer technology makes advances daily in the film industry. So it is surprising to note the rather basic motion capture that features here. It all looks rather crude, even when compared to, say, The Polar Express which was released 10 years ago.

And it’s not just the motion capture itself, but the animation as a whole. It all looks suitably nice and colourful and jungle. But is never spectacular in the sense that it takes your breath away, and the humans are a little bland and personality-free.

The story ignores Tarzan’s upbringing in the jungle to go straight to the love-story-cum-environmental sermon that once again bogs down the narrative, ignoring character development or depth.

Kellan Lutz provides the voice to the adult Tarzan and also acts as narrator, just in case we fail to understand what is going on. The rest of the voice cast add little emotion, while the less critical and much younger members of the audience may find this a good enough introduction to the character, there is no swinging away from the fact that this is a sub-par entry in the animated genre.

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