Dir: Reinhard Klooss. Germany. 2013. 94mins
The classic story of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, gets dusted off and re-booted in this ambitious new motion-capture European animation that blends aspects of the original story with an updated Avatar-style subplot about the jungle swinger battling an evil energy company aiming to exploit minerals from a crashed meteorite.
Tarzan 3D is at its adventuresome best when it tackles the characters adoption by apes and his entrancement with the beautiful Jane.
Tarzan 3D (or simply Tarzan as it is marketed in some territories) has opened in several countries prior to a 2014 release in the US and other international territories. It will naturally be compared to the Disney’s 1999 animated version, as well as the plethora of live-action adaptation of Edgar Rice Boroughs’ book over the decades, but at heart it is an engaging and nicely animated romp.
In this variation, John Greystoke, adventurous CEO of Greystoke Energies discovers an ancient meteor crash site deep in the jungle, but he, his wife Alice and young son JJ are involved in a helicopter crash when trying to leave the region. The young boy is the only survivor and is raised by apes who treat him as one of their own.
As a teen Tarzan happily spends his time playing with fellow apes and swinging around the jungle, but when he spots a young Jane Porter (animated to look like a young Meg Ryan) who is visiting her explorer father at a camp that was once the Greystoke compound he realises there is more to life. He saves her when a snake bites her, but she can barely remember the incident.
When she returns as an adult (voiced by Spencer Locke) determined to try and save the environment she is accompanied by evil William Clayton (Trevor St John), who now runs Greystoke Energies and brings with him a mercenary army to try and locate and secure the meteorite which – of course – is the source of boundless energy.
Tarzan and Jane spend some quality jungle time together – due much swinging on vines and even (in a tribute to previous versions) a nicely staged underwater Tarzan v crocodile wrestle – but when Jane is captured by Clayton and his mercenaries it falls to Tarzan to save her and the threat to his jungle home.
The computer animation is via motion capture, shot at the Bavaria Film studio in Munich. Tarzan is played by Craig Gardner (as a four year-old), Anton Zetterholm (as a teenager), and Kellan Lutz (who played Emmett Cullen in the Twilight films) as a muscular adult, and all do a good job is developing the ape-like movements of the character. It only when he meets the grown-up Jane does Tarzan begins to stand upright.
The whole ‘mercenary army exploiting the resources’ does smack more than a little of Avatar (plus much is made, for some reason, of the meteorite crash, which detracts from the core of the story), but Tarzan 3D is at its adventuresome best when it tackles the character’s adoption by apes and his entrancement with the beautiful Jane.
Tarzan fans will be pleased that towards the end of the film he does get to deliver the much-loved Tarzan yodel, though in this version there is no room for loyal chimpanzee character Cheeta, who featured in so many other adaptations. Kids unfamiliar with the long history of the character will enjoy the romping adventure.
Production companies: Constantin Film Produktion, Ambient Entertainment GMbH
Contact: Constantin Film, www.constantin-film.de
Producers: Reinhard Klooss, Robert Kulzr
Screenplay: Reinhard Klooss, Jessica Postigo, Yoni Brenner, based on the novel Tarzan Of The Apes by Edgar Rice Boroughs
Cinematography: Markus Ackert
Editor: Alexander Dittner
Music: David Newman
Main cast: Kellan Lutz, Spencer Locke, Mark Deklin, Trevor St John, Brian Bloom, Rebecca Reaney, Robert Capron, Jaime Ray Newman, Les Bubb