- Directed by Kevin Lima and Chris Buck (Buck’s Feature Directorial Debut)
- June 12, 1999 (El Capitan Theatre) / June 16, 1999 (US)
- Tarzan-Tony Goldwyn
- Jane Porter-Minnie Driver
- Kala-Glenn Close
- Kerchak-Lance Henriksen
- William Cecil Clayton-Brian Blessed
- Professor Archimedes Q. Porter-Nigel Hawthorne
- Terk-Rosie O’Donnell
- Tantor-Wayne Knight
- Flynt-Erik von Detten
- Mungo-Jason Marsden
A man raised by gorillas encounters humans for the first time.
Disney treads into classic literature territory with this adaption of the Tarzan story. I cannot say I was blown away by Disney’s Tarzan. Throughout the film to me it felt like the narrative was missing something. It was like we were getting the beginning of a story but not an entire story.
We come here for the story and the story is only okay. It has been several decades since I read the actual original story, but this film version feels extremely truncated. It is as if there are chunks of the narrative missing. Like they had decided to adapt the book then cut out huge bits of it because of time constraints and were left with only parts of a story and not a whole one. The dialogue is good but the story itself just kind of meanders around. Nothing builds up to the end.
For example there’s no real development of the romance between Tarzan and Jane which is the core of the mythology. It just kind of happens. The first human woman Tarzan sees he’s attracted to and she’s just immediately attracted to this jungle dude for, well, reasons. Infatuation makes sense but an actual love story in this movie does not. At least not immediately. This is a family film but there is not construction of it in a family friendly way.
Tarzan is rejected by the tribe by Kerchak, the leader of the tribe of gorillas that took him in, all of his life despite Kala’s acceptance of him. He’s desperate to be seen as one of them which makes his decision to suddenly hang around humans and be with Jane a little odd. He wanted to separate himself from the gorillas for some woman he just met. How fickle is that?
Our main villain of Clayton is not much of a threat to anyone or anything. You know he’s a baddie, but his bad actions just are sudden. You know he’s going to do something bad but there’s no build up to it. It is just dropped in. He has everybody but the Porters in his back pocket to cage the gorillas with no hint of just how in control he is in comparison to the Porters.
Terk is supposed to be Tarzan’s best friend but she’s more like an inconsequential sidekick than a best friend. You could dump her and not affect the story because her impact is very minimal. In fact a lot of the characters just are. They don’t get any kind of development. They just show up and that is it. They are plot devices and not participants in the narrative. As a family film, I am not expecting sophistication but I am expecting something.
The soundtrack by Phil Collins is good. I don’t know why Phil Collins generally gets hate from people but he’s a good musical artist. The music as a whole is just perfect and the movie avoids Tarzan going into song. That was a creative decision thar avoided what would have been unintended hilarity. Speaking of music that musical interlude when the animals go into the human camp seems out of place. It’s like it was added to pad the story out. It just feels so very odd.
The animation is fantastic though there are a few points where the merging of hand drawn and computer doesn’t quite mesh. The CGI looks a little flat in comparison to what was traditionally created. Even in the parts that are weak the visuals are still stunning though. Disney was pushing the envelope with this and it mostly works.
Tarzan is okay. You won’t feel like you wasted an hour and a half of your life, but it may not be something you go back for later. It’s not something I will strongly recommend.