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The 10 Commandments For Legend of Tarzan Sequel Planners

ERBDOM, Legend of Tarzan 2

Legend of Tarzan is, based on box office performance, on the cusp of what could be called “sequel-worthy” — not quite there yet, but with a good strong push from a creative team who wants to make a sequel, and with perhaps some clever optimization of tax rebates and other enlightened strategies to keep the budget down — it could be getting close to where a sequel pitch might get taken seriously.  But …..  the foregoing only takes into account the box office performance.  Unfortunately, there is also the matter of all the flak the studio has gotten from “social justice warrior” critics who object to the very idea of a Tarzan movie in 2016 (much moreso in 2019) on the grounds that it reinforces racial stereotypes and perpetuates a white savior storyline that is sooooooo repugnant that no Tarzan movie should ever be made again, etc, etc, etc.

Does this type of vociferous social justice criticism of the very concept of Tarzan matter?  Are studio heads listening?

I think the short answer is that if the film had made $1B globally the studio heads would react with “the people have voted with their box office dollars and this is a manufactured problem, not a real one” — and would merrily go about their way making a sequel.

But that’s not what happened.

Legend of Tarzan has outperformed industry experts; audiences have liked it; but critics did not like it and and particular class of critics (the social watchdogs) have truly savaged it.  Why would WB stick its toe into that water again?  Remember, it took Jerry Weintraub, a lion of a producer with a network of relationships like no other, to get the first film made, and now Jerry is gone.  Who will replace Jerry in advocating for a sequel? I’ll leave that as an open question.

Which brings me to the Ten Commandments.

I do think that in order to even get the attention of the studio, a pitch for a sequel will need to address the social justice arguments against it.  It cannot be dismissive of them; cannot be “haters gonna hate”.  Sorry, but no.

Hence the Ten Commandments.

I don’t actually have ten, but maybe somebody out there will add a few, wiki style, in the comments.

Djimon Hounsou as Chief Mbonga

A Co-Equal Black African Character With Agency–and African Culture as Complex, Nuanced, and Sophisticated

The first film made a genuine effort to treat African characters with respect, I get that. The Kuba were presented as peaceful, intelligent, and reasonably sophisticated –not uncouth savages. Mbongo was shown as intelligent. And of course there was George Washington Williams, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who was the whole reason for Tarzan returning to Africa.  So on one level, fans of the film will say — isn’t that enough?  But you saw the criticism — no, it wasn’t enough. Why? Well, the critics pointed out that no Kuba had no more than a line or two and most of what they had to say was to praise Jane or Tarzan and express love for them.  Mbongo was dismissed as sort of a glorified cameo.

The solution?

There must be a nearly co-equal black African character with agency equal to Tarzan’s.

For those who, like me, aren’t necessarily up on social science lingo – definition of “agency” in this context:

In social science, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, structure is those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions.

Mbongo has already been established as a character who might fit the bill for this.  Certainly Djimon Hounsou can carry the load.  Would it be as an antagonist of Tarzan?  Or an ally? If an ally, it cannot be “sidekick” and cannot be subordinate.

And finally on this one — African culture must be shown to be complex, sophisticated, and nuanced.  Vastly different from European culture — but internally, when you’re on the inside of it, fully developed in its own ways.  (For inspiration and ideas, see Being Colonized: The Kuba Experience in Rural Congo 1880-1960, which is a fascinating account of Kuba culture and the experience of what it was like from the Kuba perspective to be Kuba in the pre-colonial period, then to be colonized and  “civilized” by the Europeans.)

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Colonialism, Including British Colonialism, Must be Critically Examined

I expect pushback on this because in the books, which I love, Tarzan was never, to my recollection, at odds with British colonialism.  I get that, and I have a warm fuzzy spot in my heart for the way ERB depicted British colonialism as essentially benign, with Tarzan eventually becoming “Big Bwana” on the estate.  It was being written in the early 1900s.  People believed in thngs like Manifest Destiny and the White Man’s Burden.  (Even though Burroughs penned a parody, The Black Man’s Burden.)  It works in the books.  But it won’t work in a 2018 film, unless the idea is to just abandon the task of neutralizing the social warrior critics and let them have a field day at the expense of the movie.

A word about major Hollywood movies (a mainstream global cultural event to be seen and absorbed by many millions in every country in the world) vs , for example, the writing of a pastiche Tarzan book (a small niche endeavor meant only for at most a few thousand Tarzan passionistas).  It’s impossible to escape or ignore the potential for profound cultural impact, positive or negative,  that a major Hollywood film released in all the countries around the world can have.  We can rail against excessive political correctness all we want, but a major motion picture from a major Hollywood studio has the potential to play a meaningful role in shaping global societal views on an issue as large as the role of European culture in overwhelming African culture during the colonial period.  And because of that — a major Hollywood film has social responsibilities that a niche enterprise can ignore but a major Hollywood film can’t.   A major Hollywood film does have meaningful responsibilities that come from being, by its very nature and “major-ness”,  such a global cultural juggernaut.

So given this reality — what are the options?

In the first movie King Leopold is set up as a baddie…… but it’s not enough  portray King Leopold as rapacious and evil but leave the Brits and other colonizers un-criticized.  All colonizers, while not necessarily evil, would need to be shown as have a negative influence on Africa and Africans — not 100% negative, there could be aspects that are positive.  But the social warrior critics are never going to let the movie off the hook if it in any way glamorizes or paints as acceptable the entire colonial relationship as it existed in 1890s Africa in the aftermath of the Berlin convention, etc.

How can this be done?

It’s not easy, that’s for sure.  A central feature of Tarzan, the literary character, was that in Africa he eventually lived as Lord Greystoke on what can only be described as a grand estate as a colonial master of his realm – a benign white ruler of his parcel of Africa – and would whip out his doeskin loin cloth and take the trees, reverting to Tarzan status, only when circumstances required it.  This seems to be the setup that were were left with at the end of the first film as well.

But I don’t think it works to resume with Tarzan and Jane living as Lord and Lady Greystoke in the old Porter home on the outskirts of the friendly Kuba village.

What would work?

I dunno. It’s not easy.

Without knowing how we bend the story to get there, I keep thinking that between the end of the first movie and the beginning of the second, some bad things need to have happened.  The Kuba need to have been driven from their land and have migrated someplace else, far away.  Perhaps Jane and young John are safely in England, while Tarzan has remained in Africa for some reason — and that reason can’t be to protect the Kuba tribe, nor can it be in the service of colonialism in any way.  Can it be subversively anti-colonialist?

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The Relief of Emin Pasha?

One thought that keeps occurring is that perhaps this historical expedition to rescue Emin Pasha could be used. The timing is off  a little — it took place from 1886-1889 — and the sequel would happen in the early 1890s but I don’t think that’s a dealbreaker.  Emin Pasha was the supposedly besieged European governor of Equatoria, which would have been just across the border from Congo Free State.  Pasha was threatened by Mahdist Muslim forces who had captured Khartoum, to the north, in 1885 and were spreading south into Equatoria, which was a province of southern Sudan, bordering on present day Uganda and Congo.  The expedition to “save” Emin Pasha was headed by Henry Morton Stanley (of “Dr. Livingston, I preume” fame) and the relief expedition came to be both celebrated and criticized for d came to be  celebrated for its ambition in crossing “darkest Africa”, and and criticized notorious for the deaths of so many natives and  of its own members the diseases which they unwittingly left in their wake.  It’s a very messy business, with lots of action, and ultimately when they find Emin Pasha he doesn’t want to be saved.  Emin Pasha turns out to be a fascinating character — born Eduard Schnitzer, a German Jew in Silesia, he was a physician and naturalist who ended up in Africa as Emin Pasha and may (or may not have) become a Muslim.  When Stanley finally reached him — he didn’t want to come out.  So . . . without gong into all the details, there is a great deal going on in the Emin Pasha expedition that has the potential to a) provide adventure, b) present all European colonialism in an unfiltered light, and c) involves non-stereotypical characters and situation — starting with Emin Pasha himself, who is a bit of an enigma and worthy of some exploration.

Stanley Meets Emin Pasha

The question is — too heavy? Not pure enough adventure? What would Tarzan’s role be? Could he be a reluctant participant in the expedition who gradually faces a moral crisis over what it represents, and eventually switches sides? But then wouldn’t that fall into the trap of the “white savior” trope?

I dunno.

But there is something interesting there to be explored.

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Or, Perhaps, An Adventure Among the Only Uncolonized Africans

As mentioned about, the South Sudan province of Equatoria was just across the border from Congo Free State. Keep going northwest a little and you’re in Ethiopia.

Ah…..Ethiopia.Now there’s an interesting place. (I lived there from 1981-83, so I have a personal interest in it.)  The only uncolonized African country.  In the early 1890’s the Italians, who had been left out of the Berlin agreement of 1884, were trying to get their claws into Africa via Ethiopia, which is in the Horn of Africa and included at that time mountains, deserts, and rain forests, and was a real country, ruled by Menelik II, who claimed uninterrupted male line of descent from the biblical King Solomon, and who was busy trying to re-establish Ethiopia to its former status as the Axumite Empire — which had been regarded as one of the four most powerful kingdoms of the ancient world.  Menelik signed a treaty with Italians which he considered a treaty of friendship, but which the Italians viewed as making Ethiopia an Italian protectorate.   It all came to a head in the famous Battle of Adwa in 1896 in which a massed army of 100,000 Ethiopians, without any help from any Europeans, defeated the invading Italians and sent them packing back to Italy. Emperor Menelik II


What about Tarzan getting drawn into that situation?  There you would have a story which depicts arguably the proudest moment of Africa during the period of colonization; illuminates a complex and sophisticated African culture not molded or shaped by Europe; and shows the Europeans getting soundly defeated by native Africans without European intervention.

The problem would be …. if you make Tarzan a difference maker on behalf of the Ethiopians, then you’ve got white savior again, so that doesn’t work.

Could Tarzan be in Ethiopia for some other reason (helping archaeologists or anthropologists?) and have a sort of parallel adventure in which whatever grand task he must perform at the end is parallel to, but not a part of, the battle between Ethiopia and Italy?

I’ll stop there. It’s time to make breakfast.  I think I only have a couple of commandments so far, and a lot of speculation after that.   But let’s recap the two big commandments:

  1. Black African character with full agency almost co-equal to Tarzan.  African culture shown as complex, nuanced, and sophisticated.
  2. Tarzan at odds with all colonialism, not just the evil King Leopold.  British colonialism doesn’t get a pass. The entire European incursion into Africa is to be looked at critically and depicted in a way that does not advance or reinforce stereotypes that are now viewed as inaccurate and dangerous.

Boy, I expect this whole post will annoy a lot of people whom I normally don’t annoy that much. I don’t mean to do that.  I just want to see another Tarzan film in my lifetime, and yet I feel like there are many factors working against it. I’m just trying to figure out a way to thread the needle, and it’s not easy.

Breakfast break.



Lots of interesting comments here and on Facebook. One common theme is that a lot of people feel it should go the fantasy/lost civilization route.   I’m having a very mixed reaction to that notion and I want to add something about that.

First of all, I hope, think, and believe that one takeaway from the movie is that an ERB romantic adventure is still viable and will continue to be viable as a format/structure for movies in the 21st century.  The box office performance is, when you set aside the high cost of the film, sufficient to allow someone to make that case.  There is an audience out there for this kind of movie. (But then we sort of knew that from Avatar anyway, didn’t we?)

Secondly, I think we know that the creative team who made LOT is kind of locked into the historical setting and framework.  That doesn’t mean they  couldn’t do a re-think and we could even play a role in helping them do a re-think.  That’s not a grandiose thought — “wisdom of the crowd” is an established data point worth considering, and we have the means to put ideas in front of David Yates, David Barron, Adam Cozad, and the rest of the creative tam.  Doesn’t mean they will agree — but they will read and consider.  So this is not just idle conjecture.

Third …  every time I think of doing a lost civilization story with this setup (director, cast, characters) I have a two phase reaction–first phase, yeah, that would solve a lot of problems and could work ….. followed by second phase — hmmmm, I just don’t know if that’s a good fit for this character and setup that has already been established.   Yes if it’s a reboot and everything is new, but for a sequel . . . I don’t know.

But let’s say okay, let’s try and do a lost civilization fantasy sequel.  How would that look?

Presumably it would use Opar, which has already been established–at least the gates of Opar have been established, which is good since the rest of it is a blank slate.  How would it go from there?  Would the inhabitants be white, black, or something else?  If they are white — bam! — seems like the social warrior critics will have a field day. If they are black and Tarzan fights them –bam!– whacked again, as I don’t think any negative depiction of black Africans as a group is going to escape the wrath of the social warriors. If they are black and Tarzan helps them — bam! — white savior trope.

So, I’m attracted to the idea, but not really convinced — possibly because of a failure of my own imagination.  I wish someone (hint, hint) would think it through and lay it out for me.


  • Send Tarzan into one of the many lost cities for wild, bizarre adventures among fantasy, non-African races. Send Tarzan into Pellucidar for thunderous adventures with prehistoric beasts and men. What movie makers seem to forget is the many Tarzan tales that were set in fantasy cities or regions found only in the imagination of ERB. That way, we will only offend cave-men and lost Atlanteans…

    • Yes, I meant to comment on that too. I just don’t see that as an option for a sequel when the original was set in such a clear historical context. A reboot could definitely go that route. And maybe a sequel …. I’m just not feeling it. Maybe it’s just me. Opar is there, already established. I just don’t know….

      • I think Tarzan works better as fantasy adventure rather than historical adventure. Too many pitfalls trying to keep everyone un-offended, historical facts correct and still have your “superhero ” adventure. I mean really, ERB’s Africa never existed as it was written anyway. There is so much gold to be mined in terms of spectacular fantasy adventure that I think filmgoers would pay to see. The sequel will have to transition carefully into full-on fantasy, but I think it could work. If a sequel or re-boot is even fiscally viable, that is…

  • Michael, you bring up some fine points and some interesting speculation. Sadly, I don’t have time myself to fully respond to everything you’ve presented, but I’ll bring up a couple of other possibilities that might work. One is the complete move over to fantasy-adventure. That’s what ERB did with most of the Tarzan books starting with RETURN and the introduction of the lost city of Opar. Most Tarzan fans WANT to see the lost race concept developed, and we want to see places like Opan and Pal-ul-don in all their glory. By making Tarzan an active participant, but not the primary agent, in the adventure, a ripping yarn can be made that should be able to satisfy.

    Also there is the subject of African involvement in slave trading such as the well-known Tippu Tip (or Tibboo Tib). Though this aspect of African history has been largely ignored, other than perhaps, Herzong’s “Cobra Verde,” Yaa Gyasi’s novel “Homecoming” may have opened that theme up for discussion once again.

    I, personally, prefer the first solution because it avoids reality altogether and allows us to enjoy a purely imaginative heroic fantasy without reference to history. The Waziri have still not been given their due in any Tarzan film and the opportunity exists to have them, rather than Korak, search out and save Tarzan and Jane at the climax.

    Wish I could discuss this with you sometime, in person…

    Best wishes,

  • Michael, really? A re-boot? With all the use of fantasy in recent TV shows and movies, you really think that the public will reject such concepts as a “reality warp” which allows Tarzan to step into a world such as Pal-ul-don? I have to disagree strongly. No offense, but I feel that that kind of thinking is exactly what kept “John Carter” from being what it should have been. The need for Stanton to rationalize Carter’s advent on Barsoom side-tracked the whole movie into a subplot that was even more ridiculous and loaded with logistic problems than simply flinging him into another world through a portal ever would have. Movie-goers suspend disbelief all the time, as long as the rules are consistent throughout the tale.

    • I think those are good points. Convince me! I was pretty relentless in making the same point you’re making about Barsoom — that Stanton’s feeling that he had to rationalize Carter’s means of going to Barsoom created all kinds of problems downstream and was a very bad decision. The thing is . . . Barsoom is wholly imagined; so to is the world of Game of Thrones; so too is Middle Earth; only Tarzan’s Africa is, nominally at least, a real place. I think that creates some challenges. The reason I said re-boot is that I just think there was so much historical context created in the first film that it’s hard to escape it…..whereas in a re-boot you could avoid a lot of that. But I will concede that if someone worked the problem very carefully, sure, I’m sure it could be done in a sequel, not just a re-boot.

  • We can mine George MacDonald Fraser’s “Flash and the Long March” as well as “Flash for Freedom” as a starting point to find an equal agency.
    One recommendation would to not portray lost civilizations as having Roman or English forebears. EG – they’d be African through assimilation — “… The Falashas migrated like many of the other sons of Israel to exile in Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE the time of the Babylonian exile. This group of people was led by the great priest On. They remained in exile in Egypt for few hundred years until the reign of Cleopatra. When she was engaged in war against Augustus Caesar the Jews supported her. When she was defeated, it became dangerous for the small minorities to remain in Egypt and so there was another migration (approximately between 39–31 BCE). Some of the migrants went to South Arabia and further to the Yemen. Some of them went to the Sudan and continued on their way to Ethiopia, helped by Egyptian traders who guided them through the desert. Some of them entered Ethiopia through Quara (near the Sudanese border), and some came via Eritrea. …”

  • “Colonialism, Including British Colonialism, Must be Critically Examined” Maybe set it a little later and include American colonialism 🙂 And it might be worth looking at Liberia.

    • Well, Tarzan is British. That is why I singled out British Colonialism — not because it was particularly egregious. The main place to look into American colonialsm (the Philippines) would be a little far afield …

  • Emin Pasha had a fascinating story that deserves to be more widely known, but he was pretty much an actual “white savior” figure, intent as he was on suppressing the slave trade. So that would not be the hook for a sequel story if you’re worried about the response to that aspect of the original film.

    • Well, I think if you did a movie with Emin Pasha as the hero, you might have some white savior issues, but I don’t think a Tarzan film that made use of the Emin Pasha relief expedition would have that kind of structure. What makes that situation interesting to me is the way it would inevitably depict Henry Morton Stanley and the “rescue” expedition as a realistic example of British/European interaction with indigenous people. Pasha is sort of the Kurtz at the end of the Heart of Darkness journey — and then when they get there and want to take him out, he’s not interested in leaving and doesn’t need rescuing. I’m not sure if it all adds up to a good framework or not . . . but I do think any white savior associations for Emin Pasha himself (as opposed to Tarzan) would be easy enough to negotiate.

      I”m still not sure this is a great framework……but I do kind of like the idea of Tarzan being unwillingly prevailed upon to join the expedition as sort of a scout/recon guy, and then have him become increasingly disgusted with them — but I’m not sure about it. It feels like an interesting novel for me, but maybe not a Tarzan novel or movie.

      • Maybe not for Tarzan, as you say, but it deserves a novel or movie for sure. I can’t see Tarzan tolerating Stanley for long anyway. 8D

  • Mixing black African agency and the Opar that we fans so want, what about a story arising out of a war between Mbongo and Opar? Tarzan and Jane are caught up in it somehow, have to survive or escape or aid someone else’s escape, but not solve it for the two forces involved. More interaction between movie-Mbongo and Tarzan would be great to see anyway.

  • I fall down the same rabbit hole Michael does when considering how to turn the current vision of Tarzan into the more fantasy oriented Africa that ERB wrote about. I see the same endless accusations of racism and the white savior trope or the accusation of writing the native Africans out altogether just to avoid the issue,

    I thought Yate’s and company did a great job handling these question but perhaps ,they should have been more clear about the fact that Tarzan’s interest was in saving Jane while the indigenous people went along to save their families from Rom and free any slaves they came across. They helped each other along the way. Tarzan and Williams had separate goals as well. Tarzan had his sights on Jane and Williams had his on the social justice situation. The critics didn’t get it because either it was not made clear enough to them or they did not want to get it. I suspect that even if Yate’s had hit them over the head with the point over and over, thet would still refuse to get it. They will continue to refuse to get it until a Tarzan movie in Africa is dropped altogether. They will jump on any attempts to by pass the issue and shred any movie that tries it. Conversely, I don’t see a way to continue with the current format and structure without incurring their wrath once again.

    The people I have talked to who liked LOT want to see more of Tarzan. They want to see him in the jungle with the animals kicking butt and being an awesome super hero. They don’t want him pushed aside or diminished by any attempts to create a black hero ( not a side kick) who can be seen as the savior. They want Tarzan to be the savior of whatever or whoever needs saving. I have cudgeled my brain to see if I can come up with a workaround and can’t find one. If it were any other jungle setting than Africa, IMO,it would work in spite of the obvious history of colonialism and exploitation in all jungle environments. This,IMO, is because in this country,we still have not stopped persecuting black people. We successfully exterminated most of our indigenous people or we would still be persecuting them ,most likely. This country has a surfeit of guilt to go around and these critics represent an establishment that wants to push exapist entertainment to the masses. Fun filled light entertainment. Hence their attack on LOT regarding it’s lack of light hearted fun, it’s too serious tone which ,they say ,lacks joy or heart. Its hero,Tarzan they accuse of having no personality ( as in light hearted quips) he is too somber ( is not skipping and jumping about) and is a blank( entirely too stoic as befits a jungle survivor and warrior) because he is not loud, showy and chattering a mile a minute) . They don’t want these social issues to be evoked at all.

    They don’t want a more serious realistic Tarzan. In other words, the Yate’s/ Weintraub Tarzan , the one we love and is closet to ERB’s Tarzsn is unacceptable to them. A more realistic Tarzan with a colonialist background is too near the unspeakable criminal aspects off European and American inhumane treatment of indigenous peoples . Too politically charged at a time when this country is a powder keg of racial tension. So, IMO ,no version of a Tarzan as he is, an Arican super hero who is white, an British aristocrat and master of the jungle simultaneously will be allowed to fly under the radar of the PC guardians.

    The question that has to be adressed is can they make a sequel based on the current frameworkby shoring it up enough to draw PC criticism but not too much and still make it for a low enough budget that it will be a financial success for them. I just don’t think it’s possible to avoid the fire all together. Maybe just get singed around the edges?

  • I would play on the strength of the first one, and it lies in the characters, not in the overall “epic” plot involving all of Congo. Djimon Hounsou’s part should definitely be expanded in a sequel. My choice would be that now that people know there are diamonds in Opar, they frame Mbonga’s tribes for assassinations commited by “Leopard Men” in London (killing most notably John Hurt’s character, too bad he wasn’t established in the theatrical cut version! Jim Broadbent should maybe get killed too). Those behind the framing just wait for Tarzan and the British government to take care of Mbonga’s tribe so they can access the mysterious Opar themselves. And we need to see La at some point. Desperately. 🙂 Tarzan and Jane should be caught between the anvil and the hammer, trying to discover who’s behing the scheming before it’s too late, all while taking care of baby Jack (who would learn the ways of the jungle with Uncle Akut?).

  • I think I’m in the minority here as I think LOT was rather mediocre. Yes, it was brilliant to see an authentic version of Tarzan on the screen at last but to me at least the movie didn’t do enough with him. The wider political shenanigans detracted from the core of the story. So my commandments would be:

    1. Get Tarzan into the wild and keep him there.
    2. Invest more time in bringing the jungle to life. Make it vivid and hyper-realised. LOT was visually dim and dull, and compared badly to the bright colours of Jungle Book.
    3. More animals and more interaction: animal v animal, man v animal. There was rarely any peril from animals in LOT other than mangani flashback.
    4. Minimise the human cast. Take him into the uninhabited wild.
    5. Make it personal. His motivation should be driven by family or friends. Again in LOT while he did have this motivation it didn’t seem to come alive after the initial scene where he rages at Washington. Tarzan and Jane are kept apart too long and the final confrontation with Rom doesn’t involve Jane.
    6. Acknowledge his values. In LOT he is conflicted about returning to Africaand even when he gets there we don’t see his love of the wild, his admiration for the primitive and his dislike of the “thin veneer of civilisation”.
    7. Show his passion. Brooding is okay, but we need to see that he cares. Tarzan laughs, he experiences joy in freedom, but he also has a savage part to his nature that enjoys the thrill of the hunt and the kill. In LOT the only beast he fought was Akut and his human scraps were bloodless.

    If I go back to the novels, the early ones tended to have meet these commandments: Apes, Return, Beasts, Son, Untamed, Terrible. After that they faded in quality as ERB virtually made Tarzan a secondary character. So a movie based around Beasts or Untamed / Terrible might work.

  • 1. Keep the budget modest. A win-win is keep the budget at no more than 110.
    2. No more flashbacks.
    3. Loin-cloth. The finale of LOT does seem to promise that. This should be a proper Tarzan now. No shirt on. Proper swinging in the jungle, animal interaction. In short – make a Tarzan film.
    4. Generate romantic heat. Show genuine passion between Tarzan and Jane. Two such sexy stars and the movie kept them apart and the much drummed up sex scene was nothing. Engage audiences in the love story.
    5. More lines for Tarzan. No more brooding. More articulation.
    6. Keep the African setting. Lots of African characters in prominent roles.
    7. Get a good heroic score – should be exciting.
    8. Action scenes should be punched up.
    9. Give Tarzan a physical threat and match. Waltz was not. The finale should be a brutal physical battle between Tarzan and his enemy.
    10. Like you say, show the immense burden and guilt of colonialism. Show Tarzan fighting against the British government to show some respect and dignity for the Africans.

  • I like having Tarzan place in late 19th and early 20 century. But there is no reason why there must be a strict timeline from LOT. I’d like Tarzan and Jane to be brought into World War I as it was really fought in East Africa which would highlight the themes of colonialism and war. And it might, like Tarzan the Untamed, lead to a further sequel placed in Pal-ul-don, which would be the ultimate Tarzan adventure.

  • I like the suggestions of locating movies in either Pal-U-Don or Opar; both are inhabited by races which do not exist in the modern world. In particular, Oparians are neither black nor white – they are a race which has extreme sexual dimorphism, in which the females are beautiful by human standards, while the males are bestial. This is important to the plot (La’s attraction to Tarzan, which is also an opportunity for Tarzan to be conflicted.)

  • Michael, sorry that I am coming to this particular discussion but I found your analysis quite intriguing. Yes, I concur that the LOT film-makers have set Tarzan within a specific, 1890s historical setting, and this approach does not lend itself to any “lost civilization” or more fantasy-oriented scenarios. Both historical events you mentioned are intrguing.

    The Emin Pasha scenarios could be a true comedy of errors that slyly comments om European colonialism and racist presumptions. Here was someone who “went native” and was perfectly happy to not be saved by his would-be, do-gooder European rescuers from himself. It could be written to serve as a parallel examination of Tarzan and his background. The final tragedy of Emin Pasha’s death could be a somber coda on colonialism.

    That said, I think the Italian-Ethiopian conflict culminating in the Battle of Adwa is my preferred scenario. It would be a truly epic film. The key question is — how to interject Tarzan into this scenario?

    May I suggest that solution could be the same as how C.S. Forrester attempted to interject Captain Horatio Hornblower into the greatest naval battle of the Napoleonic era, the Battle of Trafalgar, without Hornblower being at sea. In his unfinished novel Hornblower and the Crisis, Forrester made Hornblower into a spy who went behind the enemy’s line to deliver false sailing orders to the Spanish fleet commander:

    My suggestion is that Tarzan serve as the scout for the Ethiopian forces under Emperor Menelik II. This allows Tarzan to do a lot of Tarzanic things against the Italian forces while leaving the final decisions and ultimate victory to the Ethiopians.

    I don’t want another “damsel in distress” situation like LOT for Jane. Your suggestion of an archeological expedition is a good. Perhaps Tarzan, Jane, and Professor Porter were investigating rumors of the lost Ark of the Covenant carried back to Ethiopia by Menelik I. That could explain their presence in Ethiopia.

    What does everyone think?

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