Tarzan to yell again — with del Toro’s help?


Variety reports that a new version of Tarzan is in the works — to be written by John Collee (Happy Feet, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) and directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), if present negotiations stay their course:

Del Toro, who grew up reading Spanish-language translations of those books, feels that the classic themes are still compelling, and that there is new ground to cover in the Tarzan mythology by turning back to the original Burroughs prose.

“I’d love to create a new version that is still a family movie, but as edgy as I can make it,” Del Toro said. “There are strong themes of survival of a defenseless child left behind in the most hostile environment.”

For what it’s worth, I have never been a Tarzan fan, per se, but I was a huge fan of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) back in junior high, for reasons I get into here.

I am aware of only two other big-screen Tarzan films since then. Tarzan and the Lost City (1998) starred Casper Van Dien and was, I am told, originally intended as a sequel to Greystoke, inasmuch as the two films had one producer in common — but if Greystoke went too far in avoiding the pulpier aspects of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books, Lost City goes too far in the other direction.

And then there is Disney’s Tarzan (1999), which is an unfortunate mess in a number of ways, but surprisingly manages to get one or two things very right. I especially love the scene where the young Tarzan — the name means “white skin” — tries to fit in with his ape brethren by covering his face in dark mud. It’s a scene that comes straight out of the book, and was also depicted in Greystoke.


The two films also have the voice of Glenn Close in common. She dubbed all of Andie MacDowell’s dialogue in Greystoke because the filmmakers thought MacDowell, who played Jane Porter, had too thick of an accent, or something like that; and she provided the voice of Kala, Tarzan’s ape-mother, in Disney’s Tarzan.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11884647995104136193 matushkadonna

    “family film but still edgy”– that is exactly how I would love to see this approached! I am a big Tarzan fan and agree that Greystoke is the closest ever but still not perfect. It’s been too long since I watched it– must make a late addition to my Christmas list!
    I used to like all the Tarzan movies when I was a kid; now some of them are fun for the laugh value. Also, Tarzan and his Mate (restored) is my nomination for world’s best date movie….

  • Anonymous

    The 1984 film by Hugh Hudson was not faithful. Stick to the Burroughs originals. Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan should be combined for one sincere film, and perhaps the greatest romantic adventure of all time. John Clayton was the first James Bond and Edgar wrote this tale in 1912. With today’s special effect capability the audience would need seat belts. This is a story that has never been portrayed correctly. Certainly Elmo Lincoln and Enid Markey came close, but the silent films had their restrictions.


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