Sunday, May 16, 2021

Tarzan's Mildest Adventure

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (Hugh Hudson, 1984) offers a respectful treatment of Edgar Rice Burroughs' original adventure novel. Performances are mostly solid, especially that by Ian Holm; the production is sumptuou; and the screenplay really isn't bad. Indeed, it's reasonably faithful to the first novel in the long-running series.

But somehow the magic is missing. John Clayton's origins are tragic, of course, and that section of the film works. And Burroughs' critique of "civilization" is well-represented. But the spirit of adventure that defined the legend of Tarzan is almost wholly lacking; there is very little derring-do, there are no lost civilizations, treasure hoards, pirates, poachers, or slavers; none of the kid stuff that captivated so many young readers. Plus, what we see of the African jungle feels confined, restrictive, and brutal; its beauty and wide open spaces are barely glimpsed.

I applaud the producers for the effort; this isn't a bad film by any means. It's just a bit dull, and in that sense unworthy of the King of the Jungle.

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