Tarzan is definitely a very well known Disney film from back in the day. It has a lot of adventuring and has grown to be rather iconic over the years. That being said, I’ve never been a big fan of the jungle landscape. Give me the big city anytime as it just ends up feeling a whole lot more exciting. The big buildings and everything is really what gets me pumped and Tarzan is not one of my favorite Disney leads either. Still I have to say that the animation here is exceptional and holds up very well. I dare say that most of the modern titles can’t touch this one and this came out before 2000!
The movie starts with Tarzan’s parents being obliterated so he is adopted by a gorilla known as Kala. He grows up with her family and the tribe and becomes quite talented. His English isn’t great as he is used to talking with the animals but it all works out reasonably well either way. One day a group of humans show up to study the gorillas but the chieftain Kerchak warns Tarzan to stay away from them. Humans are often awful creatures who destroy everything in their path after all so associating with them would not be a good idea. Tarzan can’t help himself though. Will his infatuation with Jane cause destruction to all those he knows and holds dear?
Tarzan had a tough time fitting in with the other Gorillas throughout the movie so that’s part of why he looked forward to spending time with some other humans. They were people he could really understand and hang out with after all so it really did make a lot of sense. That said, it is still a shame since he had finally gotten the reluctant respect of Kerchak and people didn’t mess with him anymore. Putting his family in danger was just not good and ultimately Kerchak is the one who has to pay a heavy price for it. He should have just said his hellos to the humans without selling out the rest.
As I always say you can risk your life if you want to but the instant you put other people in danger is when you have officially gone too far. You just can’t be doing things like that, it’s not a good idea. Even if there wasn’t a villain like Clayton in the mix, the risk itself is the problem and you can’t rely on hindsight to fix that. He has to hold the L here. I did like Tarzan more once he was really able to talk in English with the others. He actually learned a lot quicker than I expected since I’m used to him still being in the trying to adapt phase. I guess that may just be a popular part of his character since in the film he changed rather quickly.
Tarzan can also fight so that’s always handy. He’s not someone that the villains can take for granted. He does lose quickly on the boat but he was outnumbered so I will cut him a little bit of slack there. Meanwhile Jane is a good main heroine. She may panic a lot at first but ultimately she does help out and gets used to the current situation going on. Her father Porter is trying his best as well and doesn’t have any malicious intentions with meeting the Gorillas. Porter and Jane really just want to learn more about them and of course there’s nothing wrong with that. They just needed to be careful who else they brought along with them on the trip.
Clayton does make for a very imposing villain though. The guy is quite good at his job. He may be an antagonist but he’s not slacking in any areas as he is able to climb trees almost as well as Tarzan. Their fight in the climax is really intense because this guy is crazy strong, almost inhumanely so. If he lasted longer he would have made for a powerful recurring villain but either way he is not someone that you will be forgetting anytime soon. No shot of that, the film really shows why this guy is such a threat.
As mentioned earlier, the animation here is fantastic and they use a lot of strong lighting to really make Clayton appear as imposing and intimidating as possible. It’s part of why he leaves such a lasting impression whenever he is on screen. Even simple tasks like climbing vines are more fun in this movie because of the sharp animation. There is just so much energy to every action and it’s why I miss when we had such top quality animation like this. I think if this style had kept up then America would even be able to contend with anime right now on a consistent basis.
The supporting characters are a bit on the weaker side for me. You have Tantor who is an elephant who learns from Tarzan’s example and ends up finding himself a home in the gorilla tribe. He is someone who comes through for Tarzan even when the others don’t so I give him points there. He’s just not super entertaining. Then you have Terk who may be one of Tarzan’s best friends but she’s not super loyal. She turns her back on Tarzan at one point and then early on was quick to dismiss him while hanging out with the bullies. Both of those scenes started her off on the wrong foot for me.
Kala did well the whole time in bringing Tarzan into the tribe and integrating him into the mix. She defended him for years and then when he was old enough to defend himself she was still there as a good supporting character. Kerchak was more on the stubborn side since he really didn’t see Tarzan as being quite tough enough to fit in and felt he would always be an outsider. I’ll give him some credit for at least giving Tarzan his due respect once the hero took out the tiger who had been attacking them and defended the tribe against Clayton. I mean the latter was his fault but at least he tried to remedy his mistakes.
There are some songs here but none that I would say would end up going down as all time classics. They don’t seem very nostalgic to me compared to other songs that I’ve heard in the past so it at least feels like they weren’t super huge. They could be fast paced but weren’t big game changers for me either. The animation stands out as more impressive than the ost here. It helped to redeem what could have otherwise been a very boring jungle backdrop.
Now because of all the animals running around here and the jungle there is some animal violence going on. There are at least two main deaths here which was unfortunate. Neither one is particularly cruel or drawn out but I would have much preferred a clean win for the hero and then the animal either runs off or turns good. It was just unfortunate that it had to go this way. Particularly the heroic animal’s death because it just makes Tarzan’s mistake feel a lot more irredeemable because of the heavy price paid for it. At the very least he will need to work really hard to try and mount a comeback after that because this isn’t something that’s super easy to come back from.
Overall, Tarzan does feel like a grand movie because the budget for it was so high. They did a good job of making it as sleek and intense as possible. At the end of the day there are just parts of the premise that will always make it hard to be very good though. With the origin out of the way I could see the sequel being a lot better. The romance was rather weak so I’m not sure I’m ready for much more of the Tarzan and Jane pairing but otherwise you could probably have a fun adventure coming up. I’d put this around the middle. It’s not a film I would look forward to checking out again but the animation keeps it from dragging out and the fights are intense. Check it out if you do enjoy the Jungle setting.