Turok, Son of Stone is close, oh so close to being cool. It’s got a lot going for it but misses the mark because of animation that’s not up to speed with the concept and writing. The visuals have the look and feel of made-for-Saturday-Morning-TV and that’s sad because the basic premise of Indians vs. dinosaurs could be a lot of fun. And it was a lot of fun back when Turok, Son of Stone first appeared as a comic book in the mid 1950’s. Indeed the idea even survived being pumped up on bio-mechanical steroids in the 1980’s with a revived and enhanced Turok that eventually morphed into a popular video game.
But here in this cartoon version, there is a weird disconnect between the proposed adult-level story and the kiddy animation. The folks at the Weinstein Company seem to have been aware of this too, because on the packaging there are several bold warnings about this not being suitable for children. And I agree with that warning. This shouldn’t be baby’s first splatter ‘toon. On the other hand, there should be a warning of the graphic banality that’s unsuitable for adults. Some days you just can’t win.
There is a really strong whiff of the animated Pocahontas and the made-for-TV version of the animated Sinbad. This scent may have followed supervising director Tad Stones over from Disney... just a guess. Listening to the commentary track, also confirms a suspicion that this was a rushed project of the sort TV will spawn.
The thing about animation is that you can do just about anything you can imagine. There are no boundaries to settings in time and space and for things that might be hard to animate, you find ways to cheat like shadow and silhouette. Had this Turok been done in the stylish spirit of Sin City (which admittedly is live action but never the less an amazing comic book brought to film) or the animated Aeon Flux and Dark Fury, they might have had a hit on their hands.
Turok is not totally without style as there is a fight at the beginning of the film where Turok goes berserk and the background fades to a blank white field. Turok has gone to ‘another place’ at that moment. This is smart in that it graphically depicts an alternate state of reality and coincidentally shows off the blood splattering left and right. What we need to see is the same visual poetry and some grit when we are in the Lost Land’s jungles, or when we are in the Neanderthal’s caves. As it is, you half expect Scooby Doo to walk out of the jungle instead of some dinosaur.
There is a moment in the Total Turok extra features section where we get a glimpse of some of the story-board and background concept art. It looks tantalizing and that may explain why none of it made its way to the DVD as an additional extra feature. No sense in emphasizing what might have been.
I also got the sense in Total Turok that not everyone was completely onboard with the way things turned out because it is admitted that fans of the original comic book are not going to see what they might expect. To be fair, this is the norm for comic books turned to film. Then there are the modern fans of the Turok franchise who know him in his bio-enhanced robot-dinosaur mode and from the video game. Those people are simply left out in the cold on this one.
I can’t say that I was disappointed at Turok, Son of Stone as trying to make a movie out of a comic book fails more often than succeeds... like as in ‘most of the time’. I wish it could have turned out better.
- Total Turok, a bibliography of the franchise
Total Turok is worth watching, especially if you are puzzled and/or disappointed in the film. There is a clear and concise bibliography of the Turok franchise and interesting comments by the writer and directors. Even the composer gets a lick too.
Picture and Sound
Very good on both counts.
How to Use This DVD
In a lot of ways, the Total Turok is the best part of this DVD, be sure to watch it.