Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Opinion Time: Tarzan Vs. Tarzan

Sorry for the lack of updates in the last few days. Hopefully this weekend I'll catch up with some comic reviews but for now some opinions.

Last week Deadline, in a report on screen writer Adam Cozad mentioned that he had written a script for a proposed new Tarzan film that had attracted the attention of Harry Potter series veteran David Yates and Hunger Games director Gary Ross. With news of that hitting, it brought the tally of proposed Tarzan film projects up to three. The other two being writer/director Craig Brewer's take, which was to be the opening chapter of a planned trilogy, and Constantin Film's motion capture 3D animated version with Twilight heartthrob Kellan Lutz as Tarzan that is currently in production as the making of featurette posted below shows. The question is will audiences be interested in that much ape man on the big screen? Or will they give it the cold shoulder?

At this point dueling film projects based on the same characters is nothing new. A few years back two versions of Sherlock Holmes were announced: Guy Ritchie's version with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law and a comedic take with Sasha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Will Ferrell as Watson being pitched. Ritchie's ultimately made it to the big screen while the comedy version disappeared. This could mean that one of those projects-at this point either Brewer's or Cozad's-could fall apart. On the other hand this year saw the release of two Snow White films in theaters, the comedic Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts and the more action oriented Snow White and Huntsman with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron. In this case audiences it seems preferred the later film, with a worldwide gross nearing 300 million vs Mirror Mirror's 162 million gross. In this case though neither film seemed to be pitched at the same audience. Mirror Mirror was more aimed at family audiences while Huntsman pitched itself at the action crowd.

I have a feeling the same will happen with the dueling Tarzans as well, even though I'm not making box office predictions at this point. With its motion capture and some of the character designs shown, Constantin Films' Tarzan will more likely appeal to families, possibly trying to win over parents who have shown the Disney Tarzan to their children. The live action film(s) will more likely go for an older crowd, at least I'm guessing since very little is known about either film at this point.

Another question-at least for Edgar Rice Burroughs fans-is will any of these projects bring to life Burroughs' character? So far nothing is known about Cozad's script except that it was apparently unique enough to attract Yates and Ross' attention. Brewer on the other hand did tell interviewers last fall while promoting his Footloose remake that his Tarzan would be set in the same time period of Burroughs' original Tarzan of the Apes novel, even though very little else was mentioned concerning the plot. Tarzan 3D director Reinhard Kloors mentioned in the featurette that his take would bring Tarzan into modern times and that it looks like Tarzan will be raised by gorillas, making it similar in that respect to Disney's 1999 version. It's plot also centers around the struggle between Tarzan and his uncle, who has gained control of the Greystoke company and Tarzan and Jane's attempts to stop them from razing the jungle that Tarzan grew up in. So in short I wouldn't be counting on La or any trips to Opar at least in this outing. I'm sure there will be fans shaking their heads again about how Hollywood can't bring Tarzan to the big screen without rewriting him, or worse just reusing the Johnny Weissmuller version. We can only hope that the filmmakers behind all three at least bring elements from the novels to their versions.

The final question though is will it matter? Will audiences even be interested in a new Tarzan film? While the recent box office loss of John Carter has been attributed to several factors, one possible factor is that the story itself seemed so old to audiences used to "hip" and ironic characters that it possibly turned off a vast segment of the audience (and Andrew Stanton's attempts to make Carter more relatable with his "damaged goods" take didn't seem to make much a difference at the box office either). Granted Tarzan is a more familiar character-or at least the name is-but he hasn't been in the public eye much in the last decade. The last theatrical film was Disney's which made money but that was back in 1999. Since then outside of two short lived TV series (Disney's The Legend of Tarzan and the WB's Tarzan, which also updated the character and ran a grand total of 8 episodes before being cancelled) the character has pretty much disappeared. Some of that absence could be attributed to ERB Inc, which hasn't done much in the last decade to keep the character in the public eye. Granted I'm sure most of that time was spent on the endless attempts to bring John Carter of Mars to the big screen but still does that explain why Tarzan disappeared from book stores and even comic racks? Recently there has been activity to bring the character back, tied in with his 100th anniversary in the form of new books and even comics so the time could be ripe for a new film to celebrate his history.

We'll have to wait and see if a new Tarzan film, no matter which one hits theaters first, will reintroduce the character and possibly bring new readers to Edgar Rice Burroughs' work. For all its flaws, the one good effect John Carter did have was to do that. Let's see if the Ape-Man can get the same rediscovery.

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