Recommended Tarzan viewing: Go back to the Source!

Recommended Tarzan viewing
Recommended Tarzan viewing

The best of Tarzan? The answer of course would be the ones with Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan the Ape Man from 1932 and Tarzan’s New York Adventure from 1942. This was the best of Tarzan on screen. He was the epitome of the White Man as the Lord of the Jungle. There was always an interesting clash of elements in the Tarzan mythology. He was part White Supremacist and Nativist, mixed with equal parts of the Eco-friendly man and Protector of the Weak; then finally he was the ultimate Loner without a country and Rebel with a cause.

Tarzan’s role as the white man in the jungle made him innately superior, in accordance with the Darwinian model, which was always reinforced in his domination over the animals in the jungle. But there was a mystical reverence of nature found in Tarzan, and his softer side always shone through in his love for Jane. All of these elements combined to create, along with the fantastic action shots of Olympian Johnny Weismuller, this mythic but believable creature.

We could identify with that Tarzan. The innate animal charm of Weismuller combined with his physical prowess as he swung from vines and wrestled crocodiles gave us something to hang our hats on. His character had teeth. The Tarzan of the 21st Century is not as easy to read. He is not only inscrutable because of his character, but there is no clear shot at gleaning any new knowledge of Tarzan. This is a scattershot film, one of those saddled with the dreaded flashback syndrome. Any time we may grab hold of a good chunk of dialogue or action, there comes another dreary flashback to steer us away from any semblance of interest in this plot.

The plot? Tarzan returns to the jungle to save Jane. That’s about it. In the beginning we see that he is already ensconced in Greystoke Manor in England. It would have been interesting to see him in English Society, but we’re only given a brief glimpse from the opening sequence. We are mostly waiting for him to strip off his English Lord duds and begin to act like Tarzan. The weak and insipid but standard Tarzan yell near the end is about par for the course in this film. It’s so faint and half-hearted, it could be a metaphor for the entire project.

The recommendation for anyone who isn’t a die-hard Tarzan fan, but perhaps wants to know more, is to read the books by Edgar Rice Borroughs, then rent the most popular of the series: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) & Tarzan’s New York Adventure; and if you are still interested, watch the re-make from 1984: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan with Christopher Lambert.

This version, with Margot Robbie, a great actress under-utilized as Jane, and Alexander Skarsgard as the Ape Man is not worth the price of admission. Samuel L Jackson and Christoph Waltz are also great actors who are picking up a paycheck and not much else in this Sominex version.

Tarzan 2016

 

 

6 Degrees Summer Film Newsletter

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film

Where does the time go? It’s already Summer and the list of summer films has been rolled out for the past month. Are there any good ones out there? Here are a few that caught my eye…

Last Days in the Desert: Ewan McGregor is Jesus & the Devil in this version of Christ’s 40 days in the Desert.

The Lobster made some noise at Film festivals: An absurdist comedy about single people given 45 days to find a mate-or else they will be turned into an animal.

Coming In June:

Genius 2016

Genius: Jude Law plays Thomas Wolfe, with Colin Firth as his editor.

Free state of jones

Free State of Jones: Matthew McConaughey stars in the true story of the Mississippi farmer, and ardent abolitionist who leads an uprising against the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Coming in July:

Tarzan 2016

The Legend of Tarzan: Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) has married Jane and moved to England to take up the duties and entitlements due him as Lord Greystoke. But he’s lured back to the jungle and the plot thickens.

Star Trek Beyond is released on July 22nd, with Idris Elba as the villain Krall, and Chris Pine back as the durable James T Kirk.

August:

FLo jenkins streep

Florence Foster Jenkins: Meryl Streep returns to the screen in the very intriguing (at least on paper) true tale of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York socialite who wanted desperately to be an opera singer, minus small details such as talent and pitch.

Cafe soc 2016

Café Society: Woody Allen directs Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in a romantic comedy set in 1930’s Hollywood.

The Founder: Michael Keaton stars as the McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc in this story about the early years in the fifties where he began to amass his empire.

Ben Hur 2016

Ben-Hur returns to the screen with Jack Huston in the title role of the Jewish prince who is condemned to slavery and culminates in a deadly chariot race.

War Dogs is the true story of two amateur arms-dealers who talk their way into a deal to equip the Afghan military with weapons. Starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as the two intrepid war dogs.

6degreesLogogif (2)

I have written many times about the lamentations of critics with endless remakes. However, just as in theatre where the play’s the thing, so it is with film, where the story, a good story, is the thing that matters. So if there is an interesting story, there just may be a good film lurking underneath.

It depends on the director, the cast, the screenwriter, the film editor, and sometimes more obscure things such as timing and marketing and distribution, but of late, it’s been hit or miss when I see big screen summer movies premiere. There really is no there there.

This batch looks rather promising. Woody Allen directs a comedy, Meryl Streep and Michael Keaton and Matthew McConaughey all headline interesting stories. And we haven’t seen as many Ben-Hur’s as Batman’s in the past few decades. Tarzan has had a slight rest.

It’s nice to see some films without CGI leading the way with flying costumed men and an apocalyptic background with huge monsters or truck monsters looming large against a sea of flying saucers. You get the drift. There really isn’t too much that is new under the sun, so if you have a half-way decent story and a great cast and crew, then you might have a little gem of a movie hit. That’s the only reason to keep me, or any of us, going back to the movies.