Sunday, September 22, 2019

Genndy Tartakovsky's Primal - Tales of Savagery

Genndy Tartakovsky has made a name for himself in the animation industry, best known for works such as Dexter’s Laboratory, Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003) (and, to a lesser extent, Symbionic Titan), along with directing the Hotel Transylvania series of films (of which I have seen the first). As a fan of his work, including [adult swim]’s Samurai Jack Season 5, I was excited to see what he’d do when his next [as] series Primal was announced, for which a selling point was a complete lack of dialogue, a step up from Samurai Jack’s more conservative use of dialogue. With Primal’s air date drawing nearer, I stumbled upon a limited theatrical screening of the series at the Downtown Independent LA (still going as of this writing) that would take place prior to the TV premiere, and so I took advantage of the opportunity to see what the show would be like. After taking the chance, I walked away highly impressed with what Tartakovsky had accomplished.

The limited screening presents the first four episodes of Primal edited together, those being (if memory serves) “Spear and Fang”, “River of Snakes”, “A Cold Death” and “Terror Under the Blood Moon”. The basic premise involves a caveman working together with a Tyrannosaurus rex to survive in a violent, primordial world. Revealing how they come together is a bit of a spoiler, however there is a definite connection between the two characters as they try and understand one another using only body language.

As promised by both Tartakovsky and the [adult swim] teaser, the story features no dialogue whatsoever, instead relying entirely on visuals and vocal effects. Not only does Primal succeed in this regard, the way it invokes this style of storytelling leads to some very powerful imagery on both a visual and emotional level, especially during “Spear and Fang” and “A Cold Death”. The story also features some well-timed comedic moments across the four segments, especially during “River of Snakes” as the caveman and T. rex try to get along.

Primal does not shy away from blood, something Tartakovsky began
edging into with Samurai Jack Season 5.

As with Samurai Jack, Primal also has a more conservative use of background music. This allows for more quiet moments in the story to either highlight the nature of its setting or to build up tension to a big moment, for which the music helps to highlight the intensity. The lack of music also helps to highlight the more comedic moments, allowing the joke to feel more genuine than it otherwise would have if underscored by music.

Primal is proof of Genndy Tartakovsky’s capabilities as a visual storyteller and is a perfect example of how to tell a story without spoken words. This lack of dialogue allows the narrative to have more powerful visuals and the growing interspecies friendship between the primary characters is intriguing to watch as a result. If this screening is any indication, Primal is shaping up to be an amazing series, which I would highly recommend for fans of Tartakovsky’s work, especially Samurai Jack. If you are unable to attend the limited screening to get a taste of what the series will be like, be sure to catch it once it airs on [adult swim] beginning October 7.

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