Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Tarzan is Disney's 37th Animated Classic, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan of the Apes (1914), and is Disney's most expensive traditionally animated film so far, with a budget of $150 million.
So now for the plot...
In the prologue a married couple and their infant son escape a burning ship off the coast of Africa. They reach the shore and in the jungle they build a treehouse out of the ship's wreckage. Later they are killed by leopardess Sabor. Their baby is found by kindly gorilla Kala (Glenn Close), whose infant had been killed by Sabor as well. She takes the baby to her troop and adopts him, naming him Tarzan.
The second part of the plot shows young Tarzan (Alex D. Linz) is loved by Kala, her neice Terk (Rosie O'Donnell) and young elephant Tantor (Taylor Dempsey as a child, Wayne Knight as an adult), however, the troop's leader and Kala's mate Kerchak (Lance Henriksen) refuses to accept Tarzan as his son due to his being human, although Kala assures Tarzan that he is her son no matter what. Tarzan, wanting to be like the other gorillas, makes great efforts to improve himself and comically does so in a series of short clips, accompanied by the catchy number Son of Man.
The final, longest part of the film shows the adult Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn) as a fierce, powerful, spear-carrying warrior, who has a great deal of respect from the pack and even starts to gain Kerchak's respect when he kills Sabor in a fierce fight. However, his whole life is about to change when English scientist Professor Archimedes Q. Porter (Nigel Hawthorne), bodyguard/hunter Clayton (Brian Blessed) and Porter's daughter Jane (Minnie Driver) come exploring the jungle. After saving Jane from a pack of angry baboons, Tarzan starts to question his life and Kala finally tells him the full story of the day she found him. Jane starts to teach Tarzan about human life, as well as English, bringing the pair closer together until they fall in love. Just as Tarzan decides to go back to England with her, however, it transpires that Clayton, and the crew of the ship the Porters hired to bring them to Africa, plan on taking hostage all of the gorillas and selling them off in England. Now, it's up to Tarzan to save his family and his true home.
As expected due to the huge budget the animation is genuinely outstanding. The jungle is created with great care and attention to detail and the result is stunning - you will never feel let down by the animation and that is a promise. The animation was also used to create some truly stunning sequences, such as the climactic fight between Tarzan and Clayton high up in the vines and trees - that will really stick in your mind thanks to the bold, bright and shocking images.
The characters, like Disney characters should be, are really, really memorable. Tarzan will never fail to make your jaw drop in the sequences of his tree branch surfing (makes me wish I'd grown up in the jungle - it's an ability most guys would love to have) and his determination and strength really carries the film. Jane is a perfect representation of an Edwardian English lady (although she clearly states that Queen Victoria is still on the throne despite the final/main part of the film being set in 1910, nine years after the death of Victoria) - dignified, well presented and beautiful, but motivated and with dreams that her society represses. Therefore it is hilarious when she decides to put her ladyness aside and go up into the trees with Tarzan. Kala is so heartwarming that the film just wouldn't be the same without her - and I genuinely can't explain why.
Brian Blessed is perfectly cast as Clayton, his naturally (or unnaturally - depending who you ask) deep voice making Clayton both threatening, as a villain should be, and, as we viewers have come to expect from Blessed over the years, comically melodramatic. Professor Archimedes Q. Porter is, in both his design and his mannerisms, every bit the mad scientist. And Terk and Tantor make such a memorable comic double act that you will laugh your socks off in almost every scene they feature in, particularly the one where they and some other gorillas trash the human camp.
Like many great Disney films Tarzan also has some truly poignant moments, the main one being at the end of the climactic showdown between the hunters and the jungle animals, where Kerchak, who has been fatally wounded by Clayton's gun, uses his dying breath to accept Tarzan as his adoptive son, showing he loves him, and appointing Tarzan leader of the gorilla troop. Moments like this pack a truly hard emotional punch and, put together with the other elements (mentioned above) and a really catchy soundtrack, makes Tarzan a really enjoyable film for the family and another film that shows just how good Disney animated features have remained over the last almost seven and a half decades.
Stars: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Glenn Close, Rosie O'Donnell, Wayne Knight, Lance Henriksen, Brian Blessed, Nigel Hawthorne, Alex D. Linz, Taylor Dempsey.
Oscar: Best Original Song (You'll Be In My Heart - Phil Collins).