Cinemablend: Legend of Tarzan – What We Know So Far (and what Promotional Themes are Emerging?)

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Gregory Wakeman at Cinemablend has come out with a lengthy, thorough look at Legend of Tarzan.  It’s got a nice video piece — and accompany text. Here’s the video.


So what’s new in this? Not a whole lot for those of us who’ve been following it closely, but getting new information into our skulls is only part of the fun of an article like this. What’s more fun is that this could be construed as the article that gets in the first punch in the runup to the release of the movie. Cinemablend is a one of the more widely viewed “influencer” sites — so what is their pitch?

First of all, keep in mind that at the equivalent time in the John Carter marketing debacle, Cinemablend was saying the trailer seemed to be “all about spectacle” and then there was the name change from John Carter of Mars to John Carter, which they rated “confounding” and “one can hope they come to their senses and change it back.”  And these were comments coming from movie writers who were inclined to be friendly toward the film.  But when they sense that there s some kind of overriding doltishness being expressed …. they turn on the film and although Cinemablend didn’t completely turn on John Carter, (and there is more than one voice there) . . . . the tone was dubious when they started writing about it.

So what do we have here?

Let’s see what kind of themes are present that we’re likely to see again:

Theme 1: It looked like  Doom and Disarray prior to the trailer coming out . . . . . 

The Obligatory nod to the Kim Masters Hollywood Reporter “Tarzan is in disarray” article.    (Actually Wakeman previously swallowed that one whole, writing “Tarzan is a 180 M Mess“.)Unfortunately, this misstep has emblazoned on the consciousness of everyone who writes about upcoming movies, and is recited as gospel.   At the time, it led in the direction of “Legend of Tarzan will be a Pan-sized flop”.  So, is that where Wakeman is going by starting out with referencing this?  Fortunately not.   Here’s how he treats it:

Obviously, the studio has rather high hopes for The Legend Of Tarzan as they’re releasing it in the height of the summer blockbuster season. They’re hedging their bets that it will be able to swing from vine to vine for several weeks and not only amass a healthy box office return, but will also kick start a brand-new franchise that will prove to be very, very lucrative.

All of that was thrown into a bit of chaos just a couple of months ago when rumorsemerged that Warner Bros. wasn’t completely happy with what The Legend Of Tarzan’s production had left them with. This issue wasn’t helped by the revelation that director David Yates had moved onto Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them just after The Legend Of Tarzan’s post-production had begun.

Theme 2: …..but the Trailer is Epic and Has Turned the Buzz Around 

This is what all fans of ERB and the film are  hoping to hear, and it’s there:

But all of these problems dissipated with the release of the stunning first trailer forThe Legend Of Tarzan, which suggested that the blockbuster will be a moody, thrilling, and action-packed waltz through the jungle and a modern examination of the titular character and his doting wife Jane.

That, in a nutshell, is the guts of it — looked like a flop, trailer turned it around.

The article then goes on to summarize the story, using the standard materials from WB to do so. I tried to see if there is anything new but couldn’t find anything I hadn’t heard before.  A theme emerges, though:

Theme 3: This Tarzan isn’t the origins story all over again …. it’s something different.

This is welcome and it’s clear WB is trying to stay on this message with.

Rather than starting at the origins of Tarzan in the jungle and working forward in a linear fashion, writers Adam Cozad & Craig Brewer and director David Yates have decided to begin The Legend Of Tarzan with Alexander Skarsgård’s titular character as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. In fact, according to the synopsis for The Legend Of Tarzan, it has been years since Lord Greystoke lived in the jungles of Africa. Instead, he has since become gentrified and he now has a nice, casual life alongside his wife Jane Porter (Margot Robbie) in England.

And then this is upported with the Yates quote we’ll hear again and again: ‘This is about a man who’s holding back and slowly as you peel off layers, he reverts back to a more animalistic state and lets that side of his personality out.”


Theme 4: Watch for Margot Robbie to Merge Old School Hollywood Glamour with New School Toughness in Jane

This is the first time I’ve seen precisely the formulation that Robbie has the old-school Hollywood glamour thing going on (and she surely, surely does) and will merge this with modern toughness. I like that concept, and it’s a theme that I think will play well.  Here’s how it’s presented:

In fact, a merging of her old-school glamour and beauty, with a modern toughness and complexity that was previously missing from Jane, is perfectly suited to both the character and The Legend Of Tarzan.


Theme 5: Samuel Jackson isn’t just playing around — he’s playing a historical black character of great weight and significance

Now this one is new and the presenttion of it is pretty thorough. Coming on the heels of #oscarssowhite and knowing that Tarzan is going to draw some fire no matter what for embedded imperialism — this bit is a theme we will hopefully see more and more of because it really helps:

 In The Legend Of Tarzan Samuel L. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, the pioneering American Civil War veteran, politician, minister, lawyer and journalist who repeatedly broke ground in African-American history. George Washington Williams visited Congo shortly before his death, where he helped to spur an outcry over the treatment of people in the country. It will be exciting to see what Samuel L. Jackson can do with such an influential figure, especially since this is the first time that George Washington Williams has ever actually appeared on screen.

Theme 5: Leon Rom is the historical figure who gave us Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now’s Kurtz

Rom sounds like a downright despicable individual, as not only has it been speculated that he was the main inspiration for Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, which was later turned into Apocalypse Now, but he allegedly used to keep severed heads of Africans in his flower bed, and even murdered individuals for the smallest of offenses. Having portrayed the SS-leader Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds and Blofeld in Spectre, Christoph Waltz is quite adept at portraying wicked individuals. But this might just be his most detestable yet.

Anyway — there’s more, but that’s enough for now.



  • Oh, some of the the backlash against Ghostbusters is most certainly related to the fact the Ghostbusters are female, it has been since the reboot was greenlight. There’s been some very misogynistic crap written about it. I would like to say that the reaction to the trailer was solely based on the perceived quality of the trailer, but I doubt that’s the case.
    As for LOT not being in front of BvS, that would be an incredibly stupid move. We know that SS will be shown, as it’s the DC universe. But LOT is the next Big Movie on WB’s schedule, and is presumably going after some of the same audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if they show the teaser trailer for FBAWTFT, but it’s not out until November, and I’m not sure there’s as much presumed target audience overlap.
    It’s not as if they’re only going to show two trailers, they’ll undoubtedly be showing several, most of them WB movies.

  • Regarding Ghostbusters, the backlash has nothing to do with having an all-female cast. I know for sure I have nothing against that fact. The trailer is just awful, the jokes are vulgar and simply fall flat. If it’s representative of the movie, then it’s in big trouble. If it’s not, well, we’ll see then. There’s still plenty of time for them to correct the first impressions. And frankly I’m not convinced that the Legend of Tarzan trailer will be shown before Batman v Superman, it’s more likely to be Fantastic Beasts and/or Suicide Squad.

  • The budget: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) had a budget of 93 million, though of course it didn’t have that much CGI. The sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, had a budget of 170 million. Life of Pi, also with lots and lots of CGI animals, had a budget of 120. So yes, it could have had the much higher budget, but I do think it could have done it closer to the Life of Pi budget.
    LOT is not currently scheduled for release in China.
    If, as presumed, WB puts a trailer in front of B v S, it’s going to get a lot more exposure, even if just going by the lower end estimates of presales from this week alone.

    I do think a lot of the negatives against Ghostbusters are whiny males who don’t like the idea of a female led remake. Like IDR, there’s a lot of fondness for the original, and also resistance to remakes/sequels. While there are some movies that are review-resistant in terms of affecting their box office, I think reviews for IDR, LOT and Ghostbusters may have an impact on movie goers.

  • Well, there is China… it almost saved Terminator Genisys. Any idea of how popular Tarzan is in China?

    Also, it seems the Ghostbusters trailer racked up 24 million views in the first day: However, it also has 142k likes and 271k dislikes so far. Not sure what to make of that. Obviously a large amount of backlash (especially on YouTube) has been from people whining about the all-female casting, so I’m not sure how skewed those numbers are (or aren’t).

  • I’m of two minds about it. When the THR article first came out, I said “bulls–t” because the film had been put on hold until the budget had been knocked down to under $100M, and then there had been no reports of going overschedule or overbudget — yet suddenly it’s $180m. That just didn’t make sense. But then I saw the trailer and the apparent amount of Ape CGI that’s in it, and I thought, well, maybe. One thing I do know — even at 180m, it’s not going to get hammered with the “I can’t believe WB spent this much on this project” criticism…..there was some of that before the trailer came out, but none after. Still . . . I hold out hope it’s not that expensive. Every dollar they didn’t spend is $2.50 at the box office they don’t have to make to break even and get a sequel. A $100M budget with $100M marketing spend would likely earn a sequel at around $400 M global revenues, which is achievable. A $200M budget (plus 100m for marketing) sould likely need 600M in global BOG for a sequel to be greenlit and I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

  • I’m still not sure about the 180 million shooting budget, because it’d never been mentioned before the HR article. Especially as WB did not greenlight LOT until the budget was within acceptable range. I don’t think that 180, which was well over what was estimated back in 2012, would be considered acceptable. Skarsgard may have been talking about Battleship, which he filmed in 2010, and which had an estimated shooting budget of 200 million.
    I’ll believe 120, which is still over the 90 which had been mentioned from the beginning of production until the HR article. But 180? No location shooting, no production overruns, no massive star salaries, etc. Even the sets and CGI, while expensive, aren’t THAT expensive.
    I think the 180 came from the author taking the estimated shooting budget and adding on the estimated marketing costs for a movie of this type, which is usually double the production budget. Which would be 180.
    It’s possible that at some point WB will address it, but until then, as with most of that article, I’m taking that number with a grain of salt.

  • I think the $180 million budget is true. I mean, I’d heard about the huge sets and everything they made for filming and whatnot, but when the trailer came out, it took me by surprise because it looked a lot bigger and more “epic” than I thought it was going to be. Obviously there’s a lot of work, both practical and especially CGI, involved in this film (I mean, they’ve got a stampede of what looks like all CGI wildebeest) so I think the $180 million is probably true. Also because there was an interview with Skarsgard several months back (which was covered here on JCF) where he said, talking about how he chooses roles, that it has to be interesting to him personally and it doesn’t matter if it’s an indie film or a $200 million blockbuster. Now, I think most of us assumed he was simply throwing a number out there but I think he was actually being accurate.

  • I’m glad to see that the author kept up with what was going on with LOT, and is aware that the trailer was received well and continues to get attention.

    Scott Mendelson of Forbes, who has written on LOT, just published an article on WB’s upcoming 2016 films, and he only mentions LOT in passing:

    “And as we go through the year in box office, we should remember that a studio’s overall fate shouldn’t be tied into the would-be franchise plays. If Warner Bros. bats 18/20 and those two misses are (for example) Dawn of Justice and The Legend of Tarzan, we should take stock of that without discounting the other eighteen would-be winners.”

    There was another Forbes article on WB partner Village Roadshow and what movies the exec interviewed thought were potential franchises:

    A unit of the Los Angeles-based Village Roadshow Entertainment Group (VREG), VRP is making it a priority to unearth films which it believes are potential franchises. Now the company is confident it has three titles which fit the bill: David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan, Guy Ritchie’s Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur and Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, all co-produced with Warner Bros.
    Burke has seen enough footage of the Tarzan action-adventure, which stars Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz and and Samuel L. Jackson and is due to launch on July 1 in the U.S., to declare, “I think we have a giant movie looming.”

  • If things stay that way, Ghostbusters won’t be much of a competition the week after The Legend of Tarzan. The trailer they just released is dreadful (18K likes so far 23K dislikes!).

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