Like any comic character 'Turok' has gone through his share of tweaks and permutations since he was introduced to readers in Gold Key's "Four Color Comics" in the 1950s. In those books a pre-Columbian Native American discovers a hidden valley inhabited by pre-historic horrors. The character spun off into his own title: "Turok: Son of Stone" which ran on and off until the early 1980s.
In the 1990s Valiant comics revamped the character, recasting him as an 18th century brave, who gets drawn into the sci fi trappings of that comic universe. In "Turok: Dinosaur Hunter" the dinosaurs became intelligent and Turok had a variety of modern weapons to draw from. That version of the character continues to this day as a video game staple.
Next month will see the release of an all-new animated DVD movie: 'Turok: Son of Stone.' While it draws primarily from the original comics, it's a modern and mature take on the character that launches him firmly into the 21st century.
The film opens with our hero, still a young brave vying with his brother Nashoba for the affections of Catori. A rival tribe attacks, prompting Turok to fly into what can only be described as a "berserker rage!"
At this point it becomes obvious that this new 'Turok' is inspired more by modern Anime than recent American-made animated fare. Tomahawks fly. Limbs are severed and blood spurts in balletic slow-mo as warrior-born Turok ruthlessly cuts down these new enemies.
So blind is Turok's rage that when Nashoba tries to calm him Turok strikes him down as well, nearly killing him. Turok becomes exiled from his tribe and spends the next years as an embittered loner, living in the wild.
Turok's act of violence plagues the tribe years later when a ruthless native warrior Chichak discovers them under Nashoba's rule. He realizes these are the same natives that killed his own father years earlier. Chichak visits bloody revenge on the tribe, leading his warriors (armed with 16th or 17th century flint-lock rifles, marking this as post-Columbian) to attack. Nashoba's son Andar tries to summon Turok to intervene and he does, reluctantly, but he is too late to save anyone except Andar and Catori.
The ensuing pursuit leads Turok, Andar, Catori and Chichak into the lost land, where dinosaurs roam and it's there that the adventure truly begins.
If that sounds like a lot of action and violence, consider that this is only the first act. In fact, the movie up to this point is pretty much all action, and it continues that way for the first leg of the second act as well, in which Turok and his friends struggle through one dinosaur threat after another.
While traditional American feature animation tends to be toned down for the kids, I was surprised by the degree to which Turok is committed to serving older fans who may prefer 'Ghost in the Shell' to 'Ultimate Avengers'. The action is intense and the violence displayed in a way that would make 300 Spartans cheer. The animation of this movie looks far more beautiful than I expected it to. It's not 'Tekkonkinkreet' but it's definitely a notch or two about recent direct-to-video comic features we've seen.
Likewise, the commitment to showing Turok as a haunted but badass warrior marks it as a mature film. There's no attempt throughout the movie to soften the character's smoldering rage. To the end he is a Native American Jack Bauer, doing the bloody, dirty work to needed save the day.
'Turok: Son of Stone' goes well beyond a pleasant surprise and into the realm of highly recommended. The filmmakers take full advantage of the perilous Lost Land, launching Turok from one adrenaline pumping threat to another. While the film may be too edgy for younger viewers and gamers, it deserves a spot on the shelf of any enthusiast who likes action-packed adventure.
"Turok: Son of Stone" arrives on DVD February 5th and is available for pre-order today.