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Tarzan (Review)

It’s not the best telling of the classic story, that’s for sure.

Tarzan is yet another version of this very familiar character. Aside from, perhaps, Sherlock Holmes, he must be the most all-time popular fictional character when it comes to movies. They’ve made a zillion live action versions as well as the Disney cartoon. However, now a German company has created a CGI version and it’s appearing in theaters.

It begins with a gorgeous outer space scene showing a giant meteor heading to Earth. However, this is the Earth of millions of years ago, and you see lots of dinosaurs milling about … and you wonder if perhaps this is NOT Tarzan! However, it’s only the prologue and some of this (especially the meteor) comes into the story much later.

Tarzan
Directed by Reinhard Klooss
Cast Kellan Lutz, Robert Capron, Jaime Ray Newman
Release Date 2 May 2014
Martin's Grade: C-

Much of the film is typical of any Tarzan film.  A boy is in the jungle with his parents, they die, he’s then raised by gorillas.  And, when Jane arrives, again, it’s all pretty typical of the Tarzan pictures.  The big difference is the evil corporation angle.  A jerk named Clayton is intent on finding some giant meteor (the same one from the beginning of the film) and he’s willing to kill Jane, her father, Tarzan and all the cute animals in the film.  He’s a pretty typical film baddie but the corporate angle is a cliché we’ve seen a lot in recent years.  Aside from the evil corporation, the film is a fairly typical retelling of the story.

So, is it any good?  Well, the story and voice acting are nice.  But the film suffers when it comes to the animation.  One of the most difficult things to get right with computer generated animation is a realistic human.  Sure, cartoony and exaggerated ones are not difficult to make but trying to make a real-looking person is tough—and because of that, filmmakers have only recently been trying to make CGI-people who look like people.  But, all too often these characters come off looking a bit creepy, as the CGI quality is getting a lot better overall but it’s still not exactly right with humans.  Because this is a commonly understood problem, I am VERY surprised that the German filmmakers who made Tarzan even attempted to make a hyper-realistic computer animated film about this Edgar Rice Burroughs character.  And, in hindsight, I don’t think this was a great idea, as too often the people in the film just look vaguely creepy.

The effect is made worse by the sad fact that the CGI simply isn’t close to the quality being made by Pixar, Dreamworks, Fox or Universal.  It really has a look like it was made a decade ago—and the film’s graphics vary tremendously.  The people, leopard and movement of a jeep in the jungle look downright primitive, though some scenes, like the waterfalls and chameleon, look great.  It’s a real shame, as I am sure it took a lot of work by a lot of people to make this film but the graphics simply aren’t up to even a typical made for DVD release—yet this has been released in 3D for the theaters.

So, what you have here is a poorly animated but otherwise reasonably entertaining film.  I do not strongly recommend it, but you could do worse as far as family films go.  But, it probably will bore young kids and older ones will probably just sit there and make comments about the sub-par animation.  It’s probably one more to rent than to own or take your kids to see in the theater.

by Martin Hafer

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