Turok: Son of Stone
February 4, 2008
Turok, first published by Dell Comics in December 1954, came out of the anti-comic book hysteria and featured a Native American character having adventures in wild lands populated by dinosaurs. Over the years, the character has gone through various comic books creators’ hands and changed with the times, including a series of popular video games, and now an animated film, Turok: Son of Stone (2008). This motion picture attempts to pay tribute to the original comic book concept blended with an edgier, new Millennium sensibility.
After killing four members of a rival tribe in self-defense, Turok (Beach), still in a blind rage, critically wounds his brother and is subsequently cast out of his tribe. 16 years later, a representative from his old tribe asks Turok to come back and defend them against their enemies. However, he still harbours resentment and refuses the request. As a result, his old tribe is massacred by their rivals, armed with rifles which are no match for the other tribe’s bows and arrows.
Once Turok catches wind of this, he leaps into action, pursuing Chichak, the ruthless chief of the rival tribe, and who has kidnapped his childhood sweetheart, into the Lost Land, a savage, mysterious place ruled by prehistoric dinosaurs. This provides Turok with plenty of opportunities to mix it up with bloodthirsty creatures. Right from the get-go, the Lost Land is established as a harsh world with exotic animals attacking and eating each other with our heroes in constant peril. In addition to encountering a host of dangerous animals, Turok and his companions discover an ancient tribe who are at war with a primitive tribe of cave dwellers that Chichak ends up leading after he kills their leader. This sets the stage for a confrontation between the two groups with Turok and Chichak settling the score between them once and for all.
The attention to detail is excellent as the lush, primitive jungle is vividly realized, immersing us in this exotic land. Turok: Son of Stone by no means looks like a cheap, direct-to-video rush job. Obviously, great care and thought went into the making of this animated film. While the look of it is in the style of a lot of contemporary Saturday morning cartoons, this film is definitely not for little kids. The opening action sequence quite vividly and viscerally announces its mature credentials with a bloody battle involving severed hands and slow-motion sprays of blood as Turok wipes out his enemies. This scene sets the tone for a series of violent slaughters and vicious skirmishes with dinosaurs. I haven’t seen an animated film this unapologetically bloody and violent since Heavy Metal (1981).
It is refreshing to see a film, animated or otherwise, entirely populated by Native American Indians. Not to mention, the tribe that Turok discovers in the Lost World, features strong-willed female warriors. As the featurette that accompanies this film demonstrates, attention was also paid to the customs of these people, giving the proceedings a certain authenticity mixed with the pulpier aspects. If you’ve grown tired of the G rated wholesomeness of Disney, or the bland nature of cartoons on television, then Turok: Son of Stone is a breath of fresh air.
There is an audio commentary by producer Evan Bailey, supervising director Tad Stones, and directors Curt Geda, Dan Riba, and Frank Squillace. Because they were pressed for time during the production, the filmmakers divided the film into three segments with different directors for each one. They spend time discussing the look of the film and why they made the choices that they did in terms of colour, etc. They speak admiringly of the soundtrack and talk about the story and how it developed.
“Total Turok” is an excellent primer to the world of Turok, his start as a comic book in the 1950s and how the filmmakers updated yet stayed faithful to the character in this film.