Tarzan (2013) – reviewed by George

Here is another movie that has gotten horrible press, and doesn’t deserve it. You just can’t go to a movie and expect to see what you want; you have to be free for the experience, whatever changes may’ve been made to a classic title, or whatever surprises a totally new film may have in store for you. One of the criticisms I saw said something like: we all know Tarzan was raised by great apes, not gorillas. Flash! Gorillas ARE great apes.
This CGI version has also been knocked for its animation, which turns out to be fantastic except for the too-cartoony human faces. For the first 15 minutes the animation is better than anybody has a right to expect: a giant meteor falls to earth causing a dinosaur stampede, then complete catastrophe; a helicopter flies over a beautifully detailed active volcanic crater; as instruments are blown the copter has to enter a dense fog and in coming out of it, fly through the crevasses of citadel-like mountains; after landing on a plateau we get a flight of bats, the finding of the meteor itself (or meteorite at this point), with a fiery twitching glow; the sampling of the meteorite and the subsequent destruction. And imaginatively, during the helicopter’s flight the columns and escarpments look very much like a cityscape. This is a splendid achievement.
I grew up on reruns of the old Johnny Weissmuller movies and then the Ron Ely TV series, and I can tell you that the badly received plot of this movie is very much like those old plots: who can count the times Tarzan was up against big-game hunters, treasure hunters, hunters of mineral deposits, and other types of jungle-ignorant money grubbers?
Here, John Greystoke, the father of J.J. (soon to be Tarzan) is the head of Greystoke Energies, and has been asked to come to Africa to look for the legendary meteorite by friend Jim Porter, who has left New York (and his wife and daughter Jane) to run a camp for families who want to experience the jungle safely. He has purchased a weird piece of metal at a bazaar in Kigali, has heard the legends woven around the meteorite, and is convinced that the energy derived from it could be bigger than new oil fields or anything else Greystoke Energies is scouting. So John has brought his wife Alice and son J.J. on what he really considers to be a family vacation, and then as they are leaving after finding nothing but a mysterious wall of fog – you get the sequence described above which ends with the crash of the helicopter.
A lot of the old tropes are here as well, like the name exchange between Tarzan and Jane, the Tarzan cry to summon the animals, the chest-beating. But I found these charming, since they are used sparingly either for humor or the catch in the throat. Which reminds me that almost every appearance of Kala, Tarzan’s adoptive mother, is touching.
The acting credits are divided as follows:
1. With the voices of;
2. Motion Capture Artists (Human Characters);
3. Motion Capture Artists (Gorilla Characters).
Some actors did both the voice and the motion capture for their characters. They include Kellan Lutz (Tarzan), Spencer Locke (Jane), Les Bubb (Jim Porter), Brian Huskey (Mr. Smith), Mark Deklin (John Greystoke), Jaime Ray Newman (Alice Greystoke), Robert Capron (Derek), and Anton Zetterholm (Tarzan, teenaged).
The exceptions to this are bad guy Clayton (voice by Joe Cappelletti and motion capture by Trevor St. John), and Tarzan as a kid (voice by Jonathan Morgan Heit and motion capture by Craig Garner and Aaron Kissiov).
Gorilla characters get only motion capture credits, but the three principal adult ape portrayers certainly should be cited. They are Andy Wareham as Tublat, the bad leader; Peter Elliott as the good leader; and Lynn Robertson Bruce as Kala.
The movie was narrated by Jason Hildebrandt, and was written (both story and screenplay) and directed by Reinhard Klooss.
Everyone involved deserves a lot of credit. This movie is a very-well-spent hour and a half which I totally enjoyed. Very reminiscent of old movies for which I still have a lot of affection.

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