TARZANDirector: Reinhard Klooss
Cast: Kellan Lutz, Spencer Locke, Trevor St. John, Les Bubb, Mark Deklin, Jaime Ray Newman, Anton Zetterholm, Brian Bloom, Robert Capron
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Run Time: 95 mins
Opens: 13 March 2014
This had “dud” written all over it from the word “go”. We’re quite sure nobody is hankering for a new take on Tarzan, let alone one that has “updated” the premise in the most predictable of manners. Of course Clayton is no longer a poacher but a greedy corporation head. Of course there’s a mysterious meteorite that contains a revolutionary energy source, hidden deep in the jungle. It’s eye roll-worthy on many levels. It’s “AvaTarzan”, right down to a Quaritch-esque military leader named Miller (Bloom) and the laughable image of a convoy of about 50 helicopters flying into the jungle. The whole thing is a derivative affair, liberally aping (pardon the pun) Disney’s 1999 Tarzan, but without any of the charm or heart. Also, instead of being an infant at the time of his adoption by ape, Tarzan looks about 7 or 8 (the credits say he’s 4). At no point is it explained how he almost completely forgets about his childhood; the “feral child” aspect rendered fully implausible.
Created using motion capture animation, Tarzan doesn’t look entirely terrible – some of the environments are pretty and the fur simulation on the gorillas is good. But it’s still many steps down from the quality of CGI animation audiences have become used to. After the visual splendour of Tangled, Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, Rise of the Guardians, Frozen et al, it’s hard to be awed by something that looks like it was made a good 15 years ago. Thankfully, the characters don’t possess the eerie, hollow-eyed “uncanny valley” effect we all fear with motion capture animation, but there’s so little nuance in their gestures and expressions that it doesn’t feel like there were flesh and blood actors performing the motion capture. The 3D is okay, with noticeable depth of field throughout and there’s a fun sequence involving lava bombs flying out of a volcano, but there’s also the occasional “ghosting” (double vision) to contend with.
Kellan Lutz can try, but between this, the hilariously bad Legend of Hercules and the Twilight movies, we’re far from convinced he can act. At no point does his Tarzan sound believably tough – when he grunts, it sounds like he’s hacking up a hairball. Spencer Locke’s Jane takes the award for the in-distressiest damsel in recent memory, flailing and yelling for Tarzan to save her on multiple occasions. Their “love at first sight” is given no development and a romantic swim in the lake set to Coldplay’s “Paradise” (really) does not help matters. Almost all the voice acting sounds unnatural, but as a saving grace, the animals don’t talk. Veteran gorilla impersonator Peter Elliot, whose credits include Congo, The Island of Doctor Moreau, Gorillas in the Mist and indeed Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes does the motion capture for the ape leader, so there’s that.
Summary: This Tarzan won’t be in your heart, it’ll be in the DVD store bargain bin.
RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars