TARZAN [2013]: in cinemas now

Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,




REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic



John Greystoke, the adventurous CEO of Greystoke Energies, along with his wife Alice and four-year-old son JJ, who calls himself Tarzan, discover an ancient meteor crash-site located deep in the African jungle. Unfortunately, as they try to leave, their helicopter experiences technical malfunctions and crashes leaving the Greystokes dead and their young boy to be adopted by a troop of apes, in particular Kara, who has lost both her husband and her son. Time passes and Tarzan is now a teenager called Tarzan and living happily in his new habitat. He is intrigued and fascinated by a young Jane Porter, who is there visiting her father who works as a tour guide….


What reviews this new Tarzan film has had seem to generally be quite poor, which would indicate to many that it is indeed a lousy film, though of course general critical opinion is not always right. Take the review in one particular UK newspaper, which has called this film a “witless Disney knock-off”. For God’s sake, did the reviewer even watch the film?  This version, while it certainly has many story similarities [hardly surprising, that], deliberately differentiates itself from Disney’s version and doesn’t really attempt to copy it except for its Tarzan acting in much the same way, which is probably how he would have acted [such as moving like an ape]. There are definitely some major flaws with this film, but it is nowhere near as bad as you may have been led to believe. In fact, it’s quite good, and I say this as someone who has been a major fan of the Tarzan character for several decades. This is no disgrace to Tarzan nor his legacy. I feel that, with a bigger budget and with a bit more time spent on getting it right, it could have been quite something.

I don’t often take up a lot of space in a review to just answer critical comments which I disagree with: it’s a lazy way to review a film. However, I feel I have to respond to some of the criticisms of this film. One is that the film is too fantastical, what with things like a meteor containing powerful energy and area of the jungle populated by monsters and deadly plants. Certainly opening a Tarzan film with a volcanic eruption in the age of the dinosaurs seems out of place. However, the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, which always seem to me to be closer relations to works like Robert E. Howard’s Conan novels than anything else, are often extremely fantastical and ‘out there’. The long running series of Tarzan films, which is what more people are used to, stopped putting in fantasy elements [aside from the overall premise, of course] in the early 1950’s, and it’s always been a shame to me that they haven’t yet [though despite the commercial failure of the Burroughs-derived John Carter, plans are afoot for a new Tarzan live action film, though we don’t know too much about it yet].  Another major criticism about Tarzan is that it isn’t very child friendly. It’s certainly a much more serious affair than the Disney one [though there is a workman dressed as Bob The Builder], and a little darker and moodier, but, while it does have a little bit of sexual tension between Tarzan and Jane, it’s nowhere near the eroticism of the very early 1930’s films, and most of the violent acts and deaths occur off-screen. When they decided to go down this route for Batman, people fell over themselves praising the results, but Tarzan…oh no….obviously we can’t have that, even if this film is closer to Burroughs than the Disney film and many of the other films too.

So there are no songs. No talking animals. You do still get, however, some of the tried and tested elements that have almost been a staple of Tarzan live-action movies, from the ape man wrestling a crocodile to a load of animals coming to help out in the climax. There’s no Cheeta though. The story is basically an updated retelling of Tarzan’s origin [though the baby adopted by gorillas is now a young boy] and his romance with Jane with added perils and villainy. There’s the usual environmentalist agenda you get in this kind of film these days, and though Tarzan tales have always had an element of this kind of thing, there’s a distinct whiff of Avatar about some of the proceedings. There are plenty of eye-popping sequences of Tarzan swinging on vines, though I’m glad I didn’t see this in 3D as parts of the film would have been far too vertiginous otherwise, and I’m not sure it’s wise for kids to see too much of this kind of thing. Technically the film does fall short in some areas. While the backgrounds are often striking, the motion capture used for Tarzan [based on Kellan Lutz] doesn’t come off, resulting in a somewhat freaky-looking man with strange polished skin and a young boy’s face,while the other folk are designed okay but don’t always seem integrated into their surroundings.

Tarzan is oddly set in an Africa with no natives, black or otherwise. I wonder if this is partly because of the idiotic political correctness everywhere these days where it’s okay to portray white people as bad but not black people, and I worry for the planned live-action Tarzan project, which really ought to have some tribe bent on human sacrifices or something! There’s too much annoying and even pointless narration in the first half of this film, and Thomas Newman’s very loud score is sometimes overused, but it’s an exciting, powerful score nonetheless that might prove to be one of the best of the year, retaining a modern sensibility but adding things like melody and orchestral colour which seem to be disappearing from our film scores, at least in America. Tarzan, though re-dubbed with an American voice cast, is a German production and is the follow-up by Reinhard Klooss to his minor but highly enjoyable Ice Age/ The Lion King cross Animals United. There is no doubt that this Tarzan could have been better, and it doesn’t hold a candle to, say, Tarzan And His Mate or Tarzan Triumphs [the one with the Germans], but it’s a decent adventure all the same, if not really for very young kids – they’re better off sticking with the Disney one. And call me old-fashioned, but isn’t it nice to go back to having a heroine rescued by the hero for once!

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1985 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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