Monday, August 18, 2014

Tarzan Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga franchise) headlines the newest incarnation of the iconic tale Tarzan, Based on the 'Tarzan' stories created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, one of the most classic coming of age stories of all time is now completely re-imagined for a new generation in stunning CGI-animation. In its initial theatrical release the film has grossed over $35 million globally. Directed by Reinhard Klooss (Animals United) from a screen story and screenplay by him as well, Tarzan also features the voice talents of Spencer Locke (Resident Evil: Afterlife) and Jaime Ray Newman (TV's "Mind Games").
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Tarzan begins in space as a meteor hurls towards Earth. This meteor which is responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs has found a comfortable resting place in Africa. After time, (and a re-population of the Earth) the neighboring apes seem to revere the strange formation. Young JJ Greystoke is there with his parents accompanying a man named Porter looking for the meteor, hoping to uncover its mysterious powers. An ape named Kala who recently lost her child to a fall after the child’s father was killed by a mean ape taking control of the group, finds young JJ, who nicknames himself Tarzan, in the wreckage of the helicopter crash that appears to have killed all aboard but Tarzan. 

Kala adopts Tarzan and raises him as her own. Although Tarzan is a boy who can talk and communicate well, he only grunts like an ape by the time he is grown. He no longer walks like a human, and swings from the vines as his ape friends do. Jane Porter discovers Tarzan and he then begins to think about who and what he is. The villain comes into play when Jane is tricked by the Greystoke Corporation into finding the meteor. She clearly wants to protect the environment, not participate in a treasure hunt.

It’s a little unclear at times where this story is going. At first Tarzan’s father was opposed to finding the meteor but the corporation claims to be completing his work by searching for it. For the elementary school aged child, the talking apes in Disney’s Tarzan might be preferable to this film. In this film you miss out on seeing Tarzan play and learn while he grows up as part of the ape family. The film leaps from childhood to adulthood and much of the time is about adult Tarzan and his struggles.

The adult Tarzan is voiced by Twilight’s Kellan Lutz, with Jane voiced by Spencer Locke. The CGI aspect is briefly off putting (probably because I’m used to standard animation) but you quickly forget the characters were created in a computer. The apes are significantly more realistic than the human characters, but it was not a problem for me. There are genuine moments of emotion between Tarzan and the apes. There is an awful lot going on and it gets more complicated at the second half of the film as the villain seeks the power of the meteor.

I give the film credit for being different than other Tarzan films. It’s rated PG for Action Violence, Peril/Frightening Images, Mild Language and Thematic Elements. If you have a very talkative little one like I do, you might get a lot of questions like “why is that ape so mean?”, “why is that bad man so bad?” and “why does Tarzan grunt….can’t he teach the apes to talk?” It does have more of an adventurous feel to it and most children can handle the peril.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Tarzan is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in a 2.39:1 ratio. Although a 3D version is not available on the Blu--ray it’s clear to see that some shots were done with a 3D effect in mind. The human flesh tones are a little off, but the apes look great. Luckily movement is fluid and believable, helping to overcome the problems with the human faces. As expected, the Blu-ray offers vivid colors and a rich jungle environment. There are odd visual moments when outside the jungle but overall, Lionsgate offers a solid presentation.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Tarzan's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has a lot of varied sound effects from helicopter blades to animal noises, and of course the Tarzan yell (which doesn’t come as expected, swinging through the trees). Dialogue is intelligible and consistent and there were no major issues for a film of this type.
Extras (1 1/2 out of 5 stars)
I was very surprised to see such a short list of special features. Usually a film like this runs 90 minutes and you have full length commentary and hours of bonus material. The Blu-ray contains the following:
  • Becoming Gorillas –A seven minute look at the motion capture training for the actors.
  • The Making of Tarzan – A slightly longer making of featurette with cast interviews and more info on motion capture.
  • Behind the Scenes with Kellan Lutz and Spencer Locke – Eight additional minutes with the two actors.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
It’s quite possible that people will buy this film, thinking that they are purchasing Disney’s Tarzan. While I applaud the fact that this film is different, it’s important for people with young ones who are looking for talking apes to know that this is something else. The ape animation is excellent, with the humans less impressive but overall I enjoyed the audio and video presentation. Unlike The Lego Movie, this was not a film that my son asked to instantly re-watch. It will be interesting to see which film he chooses the next time he’s in the mood for a little Tarzan.

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