Friday, November 29, 2013
Opinion Time: Will "Tarzan" Swing High?
Or crash into that proverbial tree?
It's been a while since I did one of these but here goes. Since the release of the UK trailer for Constantin Films' Tarzan 3D Wednesday, it seems that the verdict on this latest glimpse of the film is not encouraging. In fact it's been pretty abysmal, with some sites like Geek Tyrant and others lamenting the film's look and plot. They're not alone as the film suddenly has a rating of 3.6 on its IMDB page, despite the fact that the film hasn't even been released in most film markets. So what is the problem?
Most of the reaction seems to boil down to two things: the film's motion capture animation and the plot (that and to some the sacrilege of remaking a Disney film. After all as we all know Disney created Tarzan. And Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, John Carter, etc.) I had been holding off criticizing any aspect of the film until I had seen it but some of this I do agree with. When it was announced as a 3D animated film I had assumed that it would be done in the style of Pixar or DreamWorks, not motion capture. But when I heard that I began to fear that the film would suffer visually and indeed that "uncanny valley" effect that made such films like Beowulf and Disney's A Christmas Carol unwatchable is present. Now some of the effects and design look good-especially the forest and some of the action sequences-but the motion capture look might be hard to overcome, especially for audiences now used to a certain level of sophistication and polish.
The other issue has been the plot. Most of the early trailers had kept hidden the actual story, with the only information released being that it was an updated take on Tarzan. That didn't really bother me too much since there has been a few updated Tarzan films and TV series so what was another one? Besides I understood that the target audience was going to be kids and that Constantin might have wanted to distance themselves from Disney's film so I wasn't too aggravated about it. But now the plot has been spilled and well...it's Avatar. (In fact I've seen some dub this Avatarzan so prepare for more of that). I know that hoping for a faithful film version that adapted Edgar Rice Burroughs' original novels is like wait waiting for Robert Iger to greenlight a Mopey Carter sequel but why the sci-fi storyline? Or why make it so close to James Cameron's film, with its greedy company after an elusive power source and only one man and his "family" can stop them? Granted the greedy interlopers plot was used by Burroughs himself numerous times and became the standard plot device for every Tarzan movie since Johnny Weissmuller's days but this really seems to much like Avatar that I have a feeling audiences will just shrug it off as a ripoff.
Now I understand that I am-along with the naysayers and to hip for words film bloggers-not the target audience for this film. It is a children's film and for all I know that audience might enjoy and love this film. But the major concern I have-and probably other ERB fans-is can we take another flop or mediocre film? After the entire debacle of John Carter, I don't know if ERB's reputation can stand another blow and while Warner Bros is still planning their Tarzan film if this film doesn't deliver it could lead them to cancel or delay their version even though the failure of the live action Tarzan and the Lost City didn't derail Disney's Tarzan so Warners might still make their version.
So the question is everyone overacting or is this an omen of what's to come when this film finally is released? As we've seen negative buzz can kill a film even before it hits (even though when you have the director boasting about his magic abilities to have studio executives grovel at his feet and how much fans don't matter you probably are asking for it). On the other hand Cameron himself has had two massive blockbusters overcome bad press and such recent films like World War Z has as well. I do hope that Tarzan 3D will be at best a good film and that it will overcome my concerns. But they have a long way to go.