What can we glean about WB’s approach to Tarzan from the synopsis and writer choices?

Tarzan, The Tarzan Files

News is starting to percolate about Warner Brothers Tarzan, and the synopsis (really little more than a log line)  that has found its way out into the media is the following:

Years after he’s reassimilated into society, he’s asked by Queen Victoria to investigate the goings-on in the Congo. Tarzan teams with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams to save the Congo from a warlord who controls a massive diamond mine.

The current batch of articles say screenwriters are Stephen Sommers (Van Helsing, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra) and Stuart Beattie (Collateral, Australia, GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra)…..  Earlier articles cited Craig Brewer

So, what’s the takeaway on this?

My first thought — other than it won’t have a lot to do with “Tarzan of the Apes” — is that they are setting it up as a franchise by  avoiding doing the “origins story” first, and that may not be a bad thing.  It’s also interesting that they are keeping the period nature more or less intact.

Somehow, a warlord with a diamond mine doesn’t quite feel right to me — feels like a 1960’s Tarzan movie or TV episode — but we’ll see.

Not quite sure how I feel about this — but it’s good to see they are getting up a head of steam on it right away.



  • Frankly, it sounds depressing. As much as I hate to sound like a nay sayer, even as a two sentence spin it seems hackneyed. The sidekick sounds like pandering to the black audience (George Washington Williams HAS to be a black man – and NO, I’m not a rascist). After writing the 50 stories for the Tarzan Sunday newspaper strip over 12 years, I understand the need to keep Tarzan accessible to an audience that by and large does not know ERB’s original character. However, there is a great difference between trying to keep Tarzan fresh to readers and merely pandering to the prime demographics for a movie audience. To be blunt, I am not an admirer of Stephen Sommers’ work. A writer like Frank Darabont would be a far more intriguing choice, if he was interested, of course. Unfortunately, I am not an optimist when it comes to seeing Tarzan in the movies. The Lord of the Jungle has been treated with so much disrespect (bordering on contempt in some cases) by movie producers that I see little reason for optimism.

  • I can see the need for a sidekick. Tarzan is a solitary figure, a one-of-a-kind character. It’s not a problem in a novel where you have access to his thoughts, but in a movie (or tv series, they brought a sidekick for Joe Lara’s Tarzan Epic Adventures too), you have to convey this thoughts by dialog.

    When I complain about “Hollywood character arcs”, it’s because of this overeliance more often than not on the “damaged past” arc (John Carter included of course, even if I think it was well done in it). Luke Skywalker is a fine example of a character whose motivation you experience directly during the movie, his uncle and aunt are killed during it, not before it. Indiana Jones is impacted by his adventures, during the movies too (the last one excepted, having a son doesn’t seem to mean something to him). That’s a long stretch from finger puppets.

    Tarzan can have an arc during the movie without necessarily bringing up the death of both his families in the movie. We’ll see what direction they will take. (Puppet) Fingers crossed!

  • MCR….yeah, I think those are okay comments.

    I’m trying to like the idea of not doing the origins story. I think it frees the writers up considerably — the starting point is, here is Tarzan, fully assimilated in London society, speaking perfect English and other languages just like the “real” Tarzan did . . . . and yet with that yearning for a return to his origins. . . . . It’s a good setup for the writing.

    As for the diamond mind . . . . I agree it feels kind of blah, but a lot of that depends on how they handle it. I think it could be handled in such a way as to be very imaginative and atmospheric — not Opar, to be sure, but with an element of the “fantastic” (he’s the Harry Potter, Director, after all) . . . .

    Anyway, I think it’s in my nature to be optimistic, and yours to expect the worst.

    I wonder if there is any way we could influence them?


  • The only things I can glean from this is that again Hollywood has no interest in doing a faithful Tarzan film and that ERB Inc is still not reading any script they’re given. Seriously do they sign off on these projects?

    Beyond that I guess the positives are:

    Keeping the period setting. No updating to modern times is good.

    Having Tarzan as John Clayton. As bad a film as Tarzan and the Lost City was at least they did that right and if this description is right we’ll get a Tarzan closer to Burroughs and less Weissmuller.

    I’m still unsure about Skarsgard but it seems that David Yates wants someone who can act, not just a bodybuilder and Skarsgard has been good on True Blood and was OK in Battleship, even if I had a hard time believing him as Kitsch’s brother.

    On the bad side:

    A warlord controlling a diamond mine. Unless it leads to Opar and La this sounds bad.

    Samuel L. Jackson. Now he’s a great actor but I’m afraid he will upstage Skarsgard or whoever they do finally cast as Tarzan. Why does Tarzan need a sidekick to start with? And having it be a “ex-mercenary?”

    Oh well at least we’ll know ahead of time what to expect. If Disney had been honest and said “Moping widower goes to Mars and fights shape shifting super aliens” a lot of pain would have been spared. 🙂

  • Characters need ‘arcs’ to be characters and not just finger puppets. What is Luke Skywalker’s arc ? See – you knew it . I’m thrilled that it’s not ‘Apes’ yet again. I know it’s not based on an ERB novel, but he did write 24 of them, he obviously had more than the origin story to tell. I too am hoping for some fantastical Opar-ish elements, considering who the director is I rather expect it.

  • On the other hand, it could also be an origin story à la “Batman 1989”. Being just heroic is not a good motivation for today Hollywood, the main character has to have an “arc”. The warlord will end up to be probably linked to Tarzan’s past, perhaps he killed Tarzan’s parents, or Kala (or even all of them!).

  • I’m disappointed that it won’t be an origin story, since Tarzan of the Apes has not been faithfully adapted, in tone or events. Do filmmakers consider nowadays that Greystoke did the best job at defining Tarzan? It’s odd, especialy since the last movie was some 14 years ago, but of course, Tarzan doesn’t necessarily needs a lenghty introduction.

    The story doesn’t seems to contain fantasy elements at first glance, but it surely will be the case, especially if it’s based on a draft by Steven Sommers (in what year was he attached to it? Seems like ages ago). After all the fantasy elements were scarce in the template of adventure movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark. At second glance, it even look like the basic story from Raiders: hero gets a mission from an official to investigate, meets with a sidekick there. We’ll see, it could be fun. Now I don’t expect much fidelity to Burroughs either at this point…

  • “Somehow, a warlord with a diamond mine doesn’t quite feel right to me — feels like a 1960?s Tarzan movie or TV episode — but we’ll see.”

    Whoever the warlord is (NOT the Warlord Of Mars, hopefully) might have found the jewels ay Opar. Not a diamond mine, certainly, but a definite possibility.

Leave a Reply