David Yates’ New Take On Our Favorite Vine-Swinging Hero


By Karen Valenzuela, @VictoriaNoir89

The trailer for The Legend of Tarzan, David Yates’ new take on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous wild man, has been released. And if you haven’t watched it yet, I urge you to do so:

Burroughs first published Tarzan of the Apes in 1912, over a century ago. And in that time, Tarzan has arguably showed up in more films, TV shows, books, and re-imaginings than any other popular literary character. And that’s on top of the dozens of sequels Burroughs wrote himself, starring the king of the jungle and his butt-kicking ladylove Jane.

Few of the adaptations followed the storyline in the series of books, and it looks like Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan won’t be sticking to the books, either. That isn’t to say this is a bad thing. Like most of the popular characters we’ve seen remade dozens of times over the years, Tarzan is a symbol. Yes, some might go further and say he’s a sex symbol, but that’s up for debate. (For the record, you won’t hear me debating.)

In the books, and many of the film adaptations, including the numerous films of the 1930s/40s that starred the infamous Johnny Weismuller, Tarzan is presented as the pinnacle of masculinity. Included in that is his uncompromised moral center. Growing up in the jungle, being raised by animals, knowing nothing of humans other than the indigenous tribes hunting his friends, and learning to live and survive as an animal gives Tarzan an almost inhuman strength and a sinewy tan physique that is supposed to represent the perfect figure of a man. Add to that the fact that he hasn’t been corrupted by human politics, war, and the general moral frailties of mankind, and Tarzan is presented as literally perfect.

It’s no wonder he ends up having such a difficult time understanding human society where norms and mannerisms are what makes a man, rather than his nature. Burroughs used Tarzan to present human society as limiting with its formality, lack of simplicity, obsession with material objects, and accessories. All of those things are stifling to the nature of man.

Most of the renditions of Tarzan since Burroughs’ passing have gently moved away from that, but the character’s superhuman strength, intelligence, and moral center have always been emphasized.

The released plot of The Legend of Tarzan, co-written by Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), has a lot of potential to at least somewhat explore Burroughs’ original ideas about the conflict between two worlds.

Here is the official logline: “It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane, at his side. Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Captain Leon Rom. But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.”


Here are a few things I’m excited about:

  • True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård is Tarzan. He’s too fit to quit. And he’s also proven himself to be a fantastic actor in the underrated film, Melancholia (2011).
    PIC 2
  • Margot Robbie (whom we’ll be seeing soon as fan favorite bad girl Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad) plays Jane, who looks pretty awesome in the trailer. That smirk on her face when she hears Tarzan’s legendary yodel echo through the jungle . . . I already like her.
  • Any film with Christoph Waltz is a great film, especially when he’s the bad guy. Waltz comes into the film as the corrupt Belgian captain, Leon Rom, who will no doubt be deliciously bad—the villain you love to hate.
  • A slew of Oscar nominees and winners are in the film, including Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction), Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn in the Harry Potter films), and John Hurt (V for Vendetta).
  • For once, this isn’t a tale of Tarzan meets Jane. They’re married when the film begins. It opens the door for a lot of really great characterization, and perhaps it might even be more of a challenge for Skarsgård and Robbie to play a couple who isn’t just discovering one another. They’ve known and loved one another for years. (FYI I have Phil Collins singing “Two Worlds, One Family” in my head.)
  • Tarzan’s lived a “gentrified life” for years now. Will going back to the jungle reawaken the beast within? The one he’s probably been working to stifle for years while apparently interacting with nobles? He is a lord after all, and apparently involved with Parliament. I’m really excited to see what the film does with Tarzan’s inner conflict: the society he was meant to grow up in—the norms, manners, complexity, and social classes—clashing with the jungle he grew up in where life was about survival and human nature, without class constructs and manners.
  • David Yates directed the last four out of the eight films in the Harry Potter I have no doubt The Legend of Tarzan is in very good hands.

The Legend of Tarzan opens in theaters July of 2016. And as a lifelong Edgar Rice Burroughs enthusiast and Jane Porter fangirl, I’ll be right there in the front row.

    One Comment

  1. JustinDecember 30th, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Review for the film is already written and ready to post. You can read it in July! Excited much?

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