Tarzan is a modern day version of the story we all know – an orphaned boy who is abandoned in the jungle after his parents die is rescued and raised in the wild by apes. Director Reinhard Kloosso (who also co-wrote the screenplay) brought motion capture and CGI effects to this version, as well as a meteorite which has the power to save the world’s energy problems. When an evil, greedy CEO wants to exploit the meteorite for monetary gain, Tarzan must defend his jungle and protect Jane, the woman he loves.
The film starts out with a bizarre back story involving the above mentioned meteorite, wiping out the dinosaurs 70 million years earlier. Fast forward to modern day and the meteorite is in the jungles of Africa being protected by a gang of monkeys while John Greystoke and Porter, an anthropologist, are passionately searching for it. After a tragic accident leaving John and his wife dead, their son JJ (nicked named Tarzan) is all alone until a gorilla named Kala decides to keep him. A few years later Porter is visited by his daughter Jane, and well – you know the rest. Me Tarzan, You Jane.
I’m still scratching my head to why they made this film – I think the filmmakers intended to bring Tarzan back to life, re-imagined and re-vamped for the new generation. But bringing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ beloved story into the modern age didn’t enhance or bring anything new to enjoy despite the technology and meteorite twist. Disney already did a quite nice job in the animated version in 1999 and it’s difficult not to compare the two films. While Disney didn’t have the fancy computer special effects or helicopters – they did have an entertaining film with energy, charm and heart which sadly, is all but left out of this 2013 version.
While the story stays true to the original (Tarzan will swing from the vine branches and beat his chest with his fists) the new age elements don’t create spark. The story was slow and obvious (perhaps too much time invested in the CG effects) and I felt like it had been dumbed-down to the point that even a monkey could understand it. The apes did have an element of realism but unfortunately the humans didn’t. They were stiff and awkward and it reminded me of the safety videos airlines include before takeoff. I didn’t know that an animation could have bad acting, but maybe that could also be blamed on the simplicity of the lines and almost ridiculous scenarios everyone is placed in.
The movement of Tarzan fails to build moments of true excitement or tension, either because the plot is so transparent and too easy. Porter has dedicated his life looking for this treasure and then suddenly without any effort Greystoke finds it (it was right beside them the whole time!) William Clayton needs a cover while he for searching for the meteorite to make money – a minute before Jane arrives seeking his help for ecological purposes in the same part of the world. What a coincidence! On an completely unrelated point, I think I saw a bit of a nod to 50 Shades of Grey in that scene when a knowing look is exchanged between the receptionist and Clayton as he leads Jane out of the room. It was very uncomfortable.
However, that said, there is some beauty to enjoy in Tarzan. The landscapes are lush and colourful and when Jane and Tarzan are left to explore their feelings – they are swimming and frolicking in some gorgeous and exotic locations imagined. Even entering the meteorite cave, these white speckles fall around them like snow and its really magical to watch. I would have loved for Tarzan to have more of these moments to really to give the chemistry between the two a chance to develop. But sadly, there’s a greedy villain that has to come and ruin everything including the romance.
I wanted to really enjoy this film, especially with Kellan Lutz’s name attached to the credits, but I was underwhelmed and confused to why this was made and who for. It was too primitive for adults to be interested and too violent for children. With it’s ungraceful attempt to be fresh and innovative, Tarzan got stuck in the special effects department and lacked a solid script to justify it’s creation. I was left wishing I had a vine to swing on to take Lutz and I out of the CGI and into real life.
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