It was inevitable that 2014 – the one hundredth anniversary of author Edgar Rice Burroughs most famous creation, Tarzan the Ape Man – would see the release of a new film based on the story. The ninetieth time the story has appeared on the big screen this animated Tarzan, directed by Reinhard Klooss and featuring the voice talents of Kellan Lutz and Spencer Locke, is the result.
Following an accident in the African jungle in which his parents are killed the young J.J. (voiced by Craig Garner) – heir to the international business empire Greystoke Energies – is left alone in the wild. Found and taken care of by a female ape and her colony, J.J. grows to become a man known only as Tarzan (Lutz). Many years later a woman called Jane Porter (Locke) meets Tarzan, when travelling in the jungle with her father who is an employee of Greystoke Energies. A chance encounter which will have far reaching repercussions for all that they both hold dear.
Let’s be clear before we start. Any animated film not from the house of Disney, or one of the animation arms of the major studios like Sony, Fox or Warner Bros, is always going to be at a disadvantage. If, however, you can get your head around the fact that the film is produced in the main by the German film company Constantin Film Produktion – better known for the Wrong Turn and Resident Evil franchises – you may actually accept that this foray in entertainment aimed towards a younger audience isn’t all bad.
Here is a story which for a change has some actual depth and doesn’t, like most animation, revolve around fairytales or talking animals. Ok, so the premise of an orphan boy adopted and raised by a colony of apes is a little farfetched. But is it really beyond the bounds of possibility? The film’s best parts turn out to be those set in the jungle, and which involve Tarzan and his adoptive ape family. The animator’s rendering of the jungle and volcano environments towards the end of the film are amongst the production’s most effective and evocative elements.
Infact the interpretation in Klooss’s screenplay, which he co-wrote with Jessica Postigo, is sympathetic to Rice Burroughs’s original creations, whilst injecting them with enough imagination to bring them bang up to date for the 21st century. Tarzan (brought alive with just the right degree of unsophisticated innocence by Lutz) and Jane, when together in the jungle, are just believable and appealing enough to make the viewer forget the film’s weaker elements – namely anything outside the realms of nature and wild animals.
This Tarzan may not be the greatest swinger in town, but this interpretation of his story proves that there’s still enough life in his story to appeal to a whole new generation of young film fans.