During an expedition to a remote African jungle, the Greystoke family's helicopter crashes, leaving one survivor: the young boy J.J., nicknamed Tarzan. Raised by gorillas, Tarzan lives by the laws of the jungle - until he encounters another human being, the courageous and beautiful Jane Porter. For Tarzan and Jane, it's love at first sight - and the beginning of a thrilling adventure - as Tarzan uses his instincts and intellect to protect his jungle home and the woman he loves.
The story of the King of the Apes is quite literally known around the world, but truth be told, I’m not overly familiar with the story of Tarzan. I know the basic story and I’ve seen some of the movies: Greystoke, Tarzan the Ape Man, the animated Disney version of Tarzan and I’ve seen snippets of the Johnny Weissmuller classics, but I have never read any of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels.
So, a chance to review a new and updated version of the classic was a welcomed opportunity. I was more than surprised to find this story of Tarzan begins with a meteor (which seems very much like a UFO) flying through the deepest regions of space. It ends up reaching Earth and ends up being the exact meteorite that destroys the dinosaurs. Flash forward millions of years in the future and you find young Tarzan with his mother and father in Africa. Senior Greystoke is looking for a lost and mysterious city that holds many secrets, including the meteor that plummeted to earth.
While we get established with a young Tarzan we are simultaneously introduced to a number of apes and a mother ape, Kala. These two stories go back and forth while we watch Tarzan survive the tragic loss of his parents and see the death of Kala’s only son. Both stories lead up to Kala finding a young Tarzan and the story of Tarzan of the apes that we are most familiar with is established.
The second act of the movie follows Tarzan as he learns about the ape family , the vastness of the jungle, and begins to grow into the young man we know so well. During this time he also learns that there is something to his past beyond just apes and he conveniently meets a young and lovely Jane for the first time. This is arguably the best part of the movie. The animation as Tarzan swings through the jungle is wonderful at times and you get to see some growth in our title character.
The third act of the movie (and keep in mind the movie is only 94 minutes long) is when the movie tries to establish itself as a new vision of the legendary character. Tarzan is reunited with Jane in a plot point that turns into an action movie with a business conglomerate trying to get a meteor that might have unlimited power, but posing as a company that wants to help the jungles of Africa. The meteor ends up destroying the volcano among other things. Yes, I’m not exaggerating, it does get that crazy. There is a ton of action in this third act, and again, the animation at times really is top notch, but the story has such little substance to it. During the entire movie we have voice over narration telling us what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. I found it be incredibly distracting, and it's basically only there because the story and script were so weak.
That being said, there are parts of the movie that I found exciting. The action pieces are strong and the animation at times is really good, although I do have to mention the animation of the human beings. I thought the scenery and animals looked wonderful, but I the facial work on the human characters got caught between looking cartoony and real. It wasn’t overly bad, but it was distracting. Much like the voiceover , the animation of the human beings is just ‘off’ and it does take away from the movie.
As much as I have issues with this story of Tarzan, I cannot say enough good things about the video quality of this Blu-ray. This animated film looks glorious. Unfortunately there was not a 3D Blu-ray version released in the United States so we only have the 2D version to review, but the movie seems primed for 3D so if you can get a copy give it a look. I’m guessing the 3D won’t disappoint.
Now, as far as the 2D version goes, the colors truly do pop off the screen. Animation has always been one of, if not the true test for Blu-ray movies, and when you are watching an animated movie based in the jungle the opportunities to test it for colors is even more so. Whether it is the vast shades of green throughout the jungle shots, or the deep blacks inside the mountain while Tarzan is looking for the meteor, every part of this disc looks look. Colors are strongly contrasted and I believe the makers of the film do well to use strong bold colors as much as they could. The Blu-ray disc takes strong advantage of this and makes the viewing experience a highly enjoyable one. Although it may not be as reference quality as a Pixar Animation title, Tarzan is right behind them when it comes to quality video material.
The audio in Tarzan is another winning experience. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 leaps from the speakers. The audio track uses the rear directional speakers exceptionally well through action sequences in the jungle and in the helicopter. The subwoofer is testing throughout, especially in the final scenes in the volcano, and dialogue is strong and clear through the center channel speaker. Again, a movie based in a jungle has wonderful opportunities for video and sound. Tarzan does it with both as it uses all channels to support the strong surrounding sounds of the environment.
Tarzan is a tale known worldwide. The filmmakers attempt to put a new spin on this classic tale, and even though their twist to the story is original, it ultimately falls flat. The script, character development, and character cliché are not enough to make this Tarzan a version we want to see again. That being said, the filmmakers and Lionsgate have put a near reference quality Blu-ray presentation together. The video image is very strong with few issues to complain about (the human animation and color being my only major technical complaints) and the audio quality is excellent. This is for fans only.