I was intrigued when I heard that the Turok franchise was going to be rising from the dead once again. The character has had a long and colorful history, starting in the comics in the 1950's, being revived and updated by Valiant Comics in the 1990's, and staring in a series of popular video games by Acclaim that ran through 2002. With Valiant (later Acclaim Comics) dead and the last video game a critical and commercial failure however, I thought the odds of the Indian who fights dinosaurs being revived yet again were fairly remote. Never count a dinosaur hunter down though, as in early February a new first person shooter video game is being released and a direct-to-DVD animated feature is also hitting the shelves. The DVD, Turok: Son of Stone, harkens back to the original comics. Gone are the laser sighted bow and cybernetically enhanced reptiles of the Valiant era, and that's a good thing. Unfortunately that's about one of the only things the show gets right. Filled with a lot of blood and gore this movie is much too violent for children, but the simplistic and often nonsensical script will bore adults.
When Turok, his brother Nashoba, and the object of their affections Catori are romping through the forest, they are attacked by a quartet of warriors from a rival tribe. The leader order the two brothers killed, but he wants the attractive woman for himself. When the warriors attack, Turok leaps into the fray. Like Jason Bourne taking out some unsuspecting Swiss patrolmen, he chops off the attackers arms, cleaves their heads opened and finally drives a tomahawk deep into the chief's chest. When Nashoba comes to congratulate him however Turok, in a berserker frenzy, attacks and seriously wounds his brother.
Back in their village, the tribal chief, Turok's father, is willing to forgive his son for what he did. The medicine man however says that Turok's destiny is soaked in blood, and that the rival tribe will attack because of what happened. (Apparently Turok should have let himself be killed and his girlfriend rapped to please the tribe elders.) Not wanting to have a kick-ass fighter in their midst when they think they'll be attacked, they banish Turok.
The attack that everyone was expecting does take place....16 years later. Nashoba is now the chief and Catori is his wife. When Chichak, the son of the leader Turok killed all those years ago, attack's Turok's tribe, they don't stand a chance. Chichak's warrior are armed with mussle-loading rifles, while the other Indians are still using arrows and knifes. In the slaughter, Nashoba orders his son, Andar, to go find Turok.
About this time most people are wondering where the dinosaurs featured on the cover are going to enter the movie. Not for a while yet.
When Turok and Andar arrive at the battlefield, they find Nashoba dead and Chichak heading toward the village to kill the women and children. Although they have a long head-start, Turok arrives at the village just seconds after Chichak who grabs Catori and runs. (Why? He's won the battle!) Turok and Andar follow the evil chief into a cave and through a long tunnel until they come out in another world: The Lost Land. This is a place inhabited by dinosaurs and cave men, where it rule of the land is kill or be killed.
Turok rescues Catori and, fighting off a dinosaur, manages to get away from Chichak and hook up with some friendly Indians. Chichak meanwhile finds a clan of cavemen and after killing (and eating) their leader gains their respect. Now with an army of savages at his command (though he can't speak their language a few arm gestures can convey the most intricate plans apparently) Chichak vows to kill not only Turok, but all of the Indians in the Lost Land.
This DVD carries a warning on the back, but it really should be on the front. This is a very violent and blood show and not for young kids at all. Arms and legs are cut off, there are instances of cannibalism, a horse gets his head cut off and dropped which is then dropped onto the ground, animals are eaten alive, someone is slowly tortured, people staggering around with arrows all the way through their chests, and the film is filled with lots and lots of blood. I watch a lot of Japanese cartoons and this ranks up there with the most violent horror anime.
That would have been fine if the story was more adult oriented with an intricate plot that could hold the interests of mature audiences. Unfortunately it can't. The story, written by Valiant Comic's Turok scribe Tony Bedard is very simple and basic. One of the first things that happens when Turok and company meet the Indian tribe in the Lost Land is that Andar falls in love with a native beauty. Come on. The characters don't grow at all during the movie and they aren't that complex to begin with.
Added to that are the numerous plot holes and implausibilities that caused me to roll my eyes. Chichak walks through the cave to the lost land, but on the other side he's riding his horse. Where'd that come from? What about Turok's berserker rage? Why is that never mentioned again after the first time? (In the commentary they blame budget constraints.) How does Chichak communicate with the cave men? That's not to mention Turok flying on a pterodactyl or riding a T-Rex into battle and somehow communicating with it so that it only attacks the enemy. (For that matter why would it even stick around after Turok jumps off its back?) How come the cave men don't die when they have three arrows through their chests in the first battle, but a single arrow to the side takes them out in the second one? I could go on and on. Suffice to say if plot holes bother you, this isn't the show for you.
The movie comes with a DD 5.1 mix that sounds good, especially during the battle scenes. The surrounds are used to good effect in these sequences to make the viewer feel that they are in the middle of the action. After the fighting stops however the mix basically collapses into a stereo track that's centered on the screen. Even so, this was a nice sounding disc.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks pretty good, for what it is. The lines are tight, the colors bright, and the blacks are solid.
Unfortunately the animation looks like it came right out of a Saturday morning cartoon for 10 years ago. The movements are often stiff, and when people walk they seem to just glide over the background art, traveling either faster or slower than their moving legs would indicate. The character designs are rather lackluster, including the dinosaurs. The backgrounds in several scenes, especially the opening, one are very good though. Other times they just fill the background with clouds or simple colors which is too bad. If the whole film looked as good as the better backgrounds I would have been impressed.
There are a couple of extras included on this disc. The first is a rather bland commentary track with producer Evan Bailey, supervising director Tad Stones, and the three people who directed the movie (each did one section of the film. In order:) Dan Riba, Curt Geda, and Frank Squillace. There was a lot of dead air in this track, and when they did talk it was mostly to narrate what was on the screen. I didn't learn much (aside from the strict time and monetary pressures they were under) and didn't find this track that entertaining.
A better bonus item was Total Turok, an overview of the character by the creative staff of the film. They talk about his origins in the 50's, how he changed in the Valiant era and what they were trying to do with him in this film. Oddly enough the videogames aren't mentioned at all which is very strange since that's undoubtedly what many people remember the character from, and this disc is supposed to support the new game (and vise versa.) Even with this omission the 22-minute documentary was fairly interesting.
I just can't decide who this movie is aimed at. There is way too
much blood and gore for children, and the story is so riddled with holes
and simplistic that I can't see it holding the attention of mature audiences.
With little replay value adults that are interested might want to consider
renting it, but this isn't worth the purchase.