The Legend of Tarzan
I’ve read twenty-three Tarzan novels. For that matter, I own and have read at least ninety percent of all of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books.
I’m an expert and I’m picky.
I loved the movie.
Essentially everything with plot, theme, and characterization is exactly as I imagine Edgar Rice Burroughs would have done. The only difference I would imagine would be a very minor tweak to the final resolution of the bad guy.
I believe Edgar Rice Burroughs would be proud of this.
I have previously said on multiple occasions that they have never made a Tarzan movie that is worth watching. What I mean by that is that they have never made a Tarzan movie that properly follows the book. For that matter, they have never made a movie based on any Edgar Rice Burroughs novel that actually follows the book. I have seen several really old black and white movies that did a decent job of following the basic characterization, but not the main plot concepts. Most Tarzan movies were created by people who have never read the book. The Disney cartoon version is particularly guilty of this; I doubt anyone who was involved in that even read the Cliffs Notes. A few newer movies have been visually stunning. The John Carter movie in particular was a visual masterpiece that brought the setting (aside from the ridiculous moving city) to life in a way I never thought possible. But these movies always lacked something. The John Carter movie in particular lacked everything that makes Edgar Rice Burroughs books so great.
This new movie is the exception. They did everything right. The visuals are amazing. The pacing is spot on. The creators of this movie obviously read and respected the Tarzan books. On just the first viewing I spotted obvious references and allusions to five different Tarzan books and more subtle nods to aspects in several others.
This was not just a remake of the book. This was a new story that is supposed to take place many years later. It is noteworthy to point out that the creators have made significant changes to the backstory. A number of aspects of the story have been modernized and more were changed to keep in line with false ideas people expect (such as the concept of Tarzan being born in a treehouse). These changes are primarily to speed the exposition. It works here.
I believe that it is the imperative of creators of movies based on classic books to keep true to the ideals and themes of the stories. Thus movies such as Contact can have major aspects completely different from the book, but still hold the same foundational qualities that made it great. This new Tarzan movie is that way. Despite the minor exposition changes, they kept true to the core and fundamentals of Tarzan.
Honor. Chivalry. Self-confidence. Friendship. Love. Obvious good and bad. These are key features of an Edgar rice Burroughs book. They are highlighted in the movie. The themes are showcased with no wishy-washy ambiguity. Had John Carter done that, they would already be on the third movie by now.
I’ve been waiting for such a movie for a long time.
Go see it.
Image Credit: I stole the image from https://teaser-trailer.com/wp-content/uploads/Tarzan-Running-The-Legend-of-Tarzan-movie-poster.jpg. If requested, I will take it down. I like this picture in particular for many reasons. I especially like the tagline on it. For those who don’t know French, it says: The Jungle has Recovered its King.