Uproxx by Dan Seitz
We’ve all heard the story of Tarzan. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vine-swinging pulp hero has been around for more than a century at this point, and been adapted, parodied, and reconfigured so many times that everybody knows who he is (even if hardly anybody still reads the original Burroughs books anymore). But the original source material, and other pulps of that era, could provide Hollywood with inspiration for striking, strange movies that might be just what the multiplexes need right now.
Vince Mancini already laid out the fundamental strangeness, and racism, behind the books in his review of this weekend’s The Legend of Tarzan. As we all probably know, Tarzan is an English lord whose family is killed and is raised in the jungle by apes. He’s freakishly strong, can talk to animals, is so intelligent he teaches himself to read a language he doesn’t speak, and is essentially a superhero. But as strange as that sounds, Tarzan’s story just gets weirder from there. Tribes of psychics, valleys full of dinosaurs and men a quarter Tarzan’s size, a Hollow Earth expedition, and a litany of lost cities and evil twins populate Burroughs’ 24 Tarzan books, and they’re every bit as cheesy, and endearing, as they sound.
The Legend of Tarzan is every bit as pulpy as the books it’s working from, but with a much fresher feel. And that’s hard to pull off.[/pullquote]So why not take a break from telling variations on the Tarzan stories that have become familiar from movies, television, and other incarnations? The big challenge would seem to be adapting any of this with a straight face, and yetThe Legend of Tarzan pulls it off. One of the more interesting aspects of The Legend of Tarzan, at least from a pulp fan’s perspective, is that director David Yates and screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer swap out the more dated and unpleasant aspects of the books for real-life events like the Berlin Conference that divvied up Africa without any input from Africans, while still feeding bad guys to swarms of reptiles and having Tarzan act like a demigod to the point where you wonder if Tarzan’s dad was secretly Zeus.
The Legend of Tarzan is every bit as pulpy as the books it’s working from, but with a much fresher feel. And that’s hard to pull off.
Comment: This is one I definitely want to circle back to when the dust settles.