So, today was obviously the day when the WB lifted the embargo on all the Legend of Tarzan set visit articles that have been marinating since 2014. What’s new and/or noteworthy in these articles? Let’s take a tour.
“Believable Spin on an Iconic Beat”
First question: What about the loincloth? It’s Tarzan’s signature item and, in a movie this different from its predecessors, you had to wonder if it was going to be there. On a set visit you generally drop by all the departments to see the incredible amount of detail and care that goes into a production this size, and one of the first stops was with Emmy-award winning costume designer Ruth Myers.
She explained that because Tarzan starts this movie as a normal London man and only later becomes the brute who was raised in the jungle by gorillas, the outfits start out very stuck up and tight. Then, over the course of the movie, they get more and more tattered. So the loincloth, as it were, is basically just trousers ripped to shreds, a very realistic approach. (Myers was mum on whether the film may eventually graduate to an actual loincloth.) That believable spin on an iconic beat is what The Legend of Tarzan is all about. The character has no big Clark Kent moment. He’s taking the ride, just like the audience. As Skarsgård puts it, the film is kind of Tarzan’s descent into madness.
I think Lussier’s onto something by parsing the trou situation. I know this has driven a lot of the ERB hardcore a little crazy, but …. I think for today’s audience it’s a smart move, and Lussier gets it. As to whether he might eventually end up in loin cloth — I think by the end of the movie you could do it, and it could work, but I wouldn’t show it in the trailer.
Tarzan’s Fighting Style — More WWE Than MMA
After swinging onto the train (a shot which we didn’t see), Tarzan makes his way through a slew of Belgium soldiers. His fighting style is more WWE than martial arts, as he literally heaves men left, right, down, and, in the most impressive bit, up. After dispatching several of the soldiers in a single shot, they shoot a stunt where Tarzan manhandles a solider through the ceiling. This is accomplished by a huge pulley system, worked by two men on the other side of the stage pulling down really hard just as Tarzan throws the soldier.
Well, that’s more ape-like isn’t it? Tarzan wouldn’t be exactly trained in martial arts anyway. In the books, he stumbles upon the half-nelson and full-nelson (remember that?) . . . Fight director Mike Lambert confirms: “Fight coordinator Mike Lambert explained that Tarzan’s fighting style is in direct relation to his upbringing, that of an animal.”
The Town of Boma
Other jaw-dropping sets include the full town called Boma, the home of Waltz’s character, which looks like a classic Western with some New Orleans flair. It’s built almost in full, with five or six entire buildings, making you feel like you’re actually there. Around the corner, there’s a huge water tank where a boat will literally be sunk.
Hmmmm….. Boma is a Swahili word meaning enclosure, that the colonial administrations took on to use for a fort, stockate, or even a district government office. Now, that last one is interesting, because that’s what the historic character played by Waltz would have had — he was a “Station Chief” on the Congo River, responsible for a district. I guess that works.
A Sense of Joy on the Set
As someone who’s been on a lot of sets, my biggest takeaway from The Legend of Tarzan was just a real sense of joy. Sure, cast and crew love to tell the press how much they are loving their work, but time and time again, from the costume designer, to the hair and makeup team, down to the unit publicist and actors, everyone said this was some of the most fun they’d ever had making a movie. If they were lying, David Yates might be forced to cast them in his next film cause they were very convincing. The Legend of Tarzan is a passion project for just about everyone involved and, if the sequel/reboot works, maybe another film could happen. For now though, it was just all about making the best movie possible.
Now THAT is very interesting.