With 2014 marking the 100th anniversary of author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous creation, Tarzan the Ape Man, it seemed inevitable that someone would make a new film for the character. The 19th time the story has appeared on the big screen, Reinhard Klooss’ Tarzan (2013) begins with an accident in which the parents of young J.J. (Craig Garner) – heir to the Greystoke Energies business empire – are killed in the African jungle, leaving the boy alone in the wild. Found and taken care of by a female gorilla and her band, J.J. grows to become the man known only as Tarzan (Kellan Lutz). Years later, Jane Porter (Spencer Locke) meets Tarzan when travelling in the jungle with her father, an employee of Greystoke.
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 Tarzan 3D 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 into 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 animations – revolve purely around fairytales or talking animals. The premise of an orphan boy adopted and raised by wild gorillas may be a little far-fetched, but is it really beyond the realms of possibility?
Tarzan’s best moments are those set in the jungle with 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. In fact, the interpretation in Klooss’ screenplay 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 bounds of nature. Klooss’ Tarzan may not be the greatest swinger in town, but there’s still fun to be had for younger viewers.