Thursday, 31 July 2008

Turok: Son of Stone (2008)

With Ray Harryhausen's Valley of the Gwangi, we saw cowboys and dinosaurs, which is a pretty awesome combination. However, it kind of left Indians high-and-dry. So that Native Americans aren't left out of the time-tossed mix-up, Classic Media released a direct-to-video animated version of the original comic series Turok: Son of Stone.

Rather than work from the more modern reimaginings of Turok, including the recent super-futuristic combat video game, this animated film goes back to the original story of the American Indian Turok who discovers a Lost Land where dinosaurs and cavemen run amok. That is not to say that it is not executed with a more modern sensibility as well. For example, great care was taken with a respectful portrayal of Native Americans, to having cultural consultants and a primarily Native American voice cast. Of course, that is also buried beneath buckets of blood, which also reflects on these modern sensibilities.

The film focuses on Turok, a young man filled with a primal fury unleashed during an altercation with a neighbouring tribe gone horribly wrong. Cast out of his own tribe, he disappears into the shadows until the son of the chief Turok killed returns to wage war. With his dying breath, Turok's brother asks him to look after his wife and son, which in turn leads him on a hunt of the villainous Chichak all the way to the Lost Land.

The Lost Land is the quintessential valley where dinosaurs and other prehistoric monster reign supreme. Here is a part of the film not updated: this is exactly the striking landscape of bubbling volcanoes, trogloditic cavemen, red skies and thundering lizards seen in comics, films and textbooks of the 1950's and 60's, where creatures seem to exist for few purposes besides attacking our heroes in rapid succession. It is also the land that mirrors the savagery in Turok's own heart. As one of the film's producers phrased it, the Lost Land is a place where he meets monsters that are bigger than the one he thought he was.

The quality of this direct-to-video release is comparable to latter television animation long the lines of The Batman and the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe revival. That isn't bad in itself, though one finds themselves wishing that it had the kind of budget given to Japanese direct-to-video shows, comparable to a feature film. One also cannot stress enough that the warnings of graphic violence given on the package are deadly serious.

Where the film excels is as an exploration of Turok, the character. He is not merely a foil for dinosaur fights, but an actual character insofar as one can be explored in a high-test film of this sort. He provides an interesting exploration of society and violence. There is even food for examination in that his ultimate reintegration into civilization only comes in the context of a world that allows him to unleash his inner, very violent, demons.

1 comment:

TurokWalk said...

Great post, I love Turok! Long live Turok!