Turok: Son of Stone
Turok: Son of Stone 2008
It’s always interesting to me when I discover films that I previously hadn’t heard about across my nearly five years of running this site. I was vaguely aware of the Turok video game series from the late 90’s, but I never knew that it was based on a video game. I also never knew that it was turned into an animated movie around the same time as the last installment of the game series in 2008. This film generally ignores most of the video game series and goes back to the roots of the comics to tell an origin story of sorts for Turok and his journey to the Land of the Lost more or less. It’s filled with plenty of blood and action, attempts at being culturally sensitive rather than playing into Native American stereotypes, but in the end it didn’t quite accomplish the most important thing that it should have done. It never really made Turok feel like a real character instead of an action hero stereotype.
The film starts out in such a tonal disconnect from the rest of the movie. It opens on a young, playful trio modeled roughly after American natives. The two boys go chasing after the girl’s hair clip down the stream and randomly start splashing each other with water until they come across a few members of a rival tribe decked out in war paint. The leader tosses his tomahawk and Turok unexpectedly catches it before going into a berserker rage and killing all of the men. Not only that, but he gravely injures his brother when he goes to check on him after all the carnage as he’s still in a blood rage. It shifts from the playful tone to a weird bloodbath to a more dramatic moment as Turok is banished from the tribe while his brother cries out in pain. All without really giving any information about who Turok is as a character. There’s no explanation of why he has this skill at fighting, he even seemed surprised himself when he caught the tomahawk aimed at his head. It’s as if showing us is the only explanation needed, and we as an audience just have to go with it.
The rest of the film more or less follows the same way of thinking. There’s little to no explanation given to what’s going on. Which on one hand does help since there aren’t very many exposition dumps. But on the other hand, the film doesn’t quite give us enough to go on to connect with these characters and their situations. We have Turok as a main character. He’s been exiled and lives alone in the wilderness, but cares enough about his brother and family that he returns to save them from a warring tribe. It just so happens that the tribe is the same one that he was in conflict with earlier, and their leader is the son of the same man he killed and took the tomahawk. There’s also a hint of a message throughout the film, but it’s treated more as an afterthought than anything else. When Turok and company finally end up in this Lost World filled with dinosaurs, he fights a large water dino and the blood attracts an even larger water dino who inadvertently saves them. One of the members of a friendly tribe tells him that “blood begets blood” or something along those lines. It’s a concept that he uses again in a literal context later in the film when he uses his own blood to lure and trap a T-Rex-like predator dino. But there’s also the more metaphoric sense of the phrase where the blood of the tribe leader brought his son Chichak back for Turok’s blood. And Chichak killed Turok’s brother so Turok is also out for his blood.
The animation style itself isn’t anything that special. It hearkens back to a more Saturday morning action cartoon style without much of an anime influence that has been permeating US cartoons over the past decade or so. Though the blood does have a slight Asian feel to it. It’s not quite the low budget exploitation style of blood spraying in a giant fountain, but there is a large amount of it that splashes out during every attack. The moments of actual gore are kept to a bare minimum, like one moment where we see the remains of the Neanderthal leader who was killed by Chichak when he fired the push rod of his rifle through the leader’s head and the rest of the tribe used his remains for their dinner. So we get a shot of the dismembered leader with the rod still through his head. The guns themselves were a slightly interesting detail, as it gave Chichak’s tribe a huge advantage during the initial battle with the rest of Turok’s tribe. And when Chichak gets trapped in the Lost World with Turok and his family, he seems to have a near endless supply of pistols and ammo. It’s also inconsistent as to whether or not he has to go through the entire reloading process during each shot.
To top things off, there’s the requisite pseudo love story in play. Not just one, but a couple. The leader of this friendly tribe within the Lost World is played out to have affection for Turok, there’s also hints of love between Turok’s young nephew Andar and one of the female warriors in the tribe. But what’s really at play is supposed to be Turok’s quest for a place where he belongs. There’s all these subtle hints throughout the film about how he would prefer to be alone because of his killer instincts, but those same instincts make him perfect for the dangerous life within this new world that he finds himself in. The argument could be made that the film intentionally leaves this motivation ambiguous. It even ends on a note where the tribe’s leader has died and Turok would be the most appropriate candidate for a replacement, but the only thing the movie gives us is that he finishes the tribe’s mantra that essentially shows that he thinks of himself as a part of that tribe.
The last thing to mention about this film is how it portrays natives. It’s a difficult thing for me to discuss as I have little to no first hand experience and can only base it off of how it compares to other portrayals in TV and movies. There is a hint of the speech pattern that most people think of when it comes to uneducated savages, but it’s mostly underplayed to a point where it’s just a different rhythm of speaking. There is the warlike savagery, but that’s mostly directed towards the enemy tribe, one of the reasons why Turok is exiled is because his nature is too warlike and violent. The tribes may or may not be designed after a specific tribe, but it’s more likely that it’s just a generic amalgam of various Native American tribes. It never felt incredibly insensitive to me, but I’m not the one who really has any say in it. Overall the movie wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t anything special. My wife enjoyed it, but part of that was because she didn’t know anything about it and was thrown off by the unexpected violence and dinosaurs. I thought it could have been handled quite a bit better, but there were some good ideas here and there. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.