With anxiety and anticipation I have learned that a new Tarzan movie is coming in 2016 — and that Tarzan will be played by none other than Alexander Skarsgård. I say ‘anticipation’ because I love Tarzan (and Skarsgård). But I say ‘anxiety’ because I fear another disastrous treatment.
Tarzan adaptations fall apart for two primary reasons:
1) Tarzan movies always miss the point. Every writing and directing team who makes the attempt to adapt Tarzan to the screen thinks they can make it better. In the process they lose track of Burrough’s message, which is simply this: “You can put a hero into the jungle, but you can’t put the jungle into a hero.” The jungle has not turned him into an animal, but rather it has released him from social conventions and allowed him to manifest his natural self.
Tarzan demonstrates the inherent nobility of man, not the ape that is inside us all. While Tarzan can be bestial, and is capable of all manner of savagery in defense of himself and those he loves, he remains kind, decent, fair, and devoted. Being raised by apes has transformed him physically, allowing him to tap into his primal power when needed. But, unlike the villains he faces, he never surrenders himself to base instincts.
2) Tarzan movies are always way too tame. In the very first book Tarzan gets his scalp half torn off by the ape Terkoz and earns a scar that starts above his left eye, runs up his forehead and across the top of his head, and ends at the right ear. When he gets enraged it stands out on his forehead, purple and white on his tanned skin. He’s an intense and scary guy, a brutal adversary. In Chapter 3 of The Return of Tarzan there is a horrific fight in the apartments of the Rue Maule. Tarzan snaps one attacker’s wrist, dislocates the shoulder of another, and bites out a third assassin’s throat. I really don’t see how you could make a faithful Tarzan adaptation without an “R” rating.
Hopefully this thing won’t suck. But I have to tell you, I’m not getting my hopes up.