May 13, 2018

Modern Tarzans

Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs' literary creation, was wildly popular in the 1930s and 1940s, appearing on the radio, in comic strips, and in now-classic movies, and inspiring a host of imitations.  His popularity waned later, although of course there were movies, comic books, a tv series, a Disney musical, and so on.  Contemporary adaptions must face a number of problems:

1. The myth of Darkest Africa may have played in the past,  but today everyone is aware that sub-Saharan Africa is not jungles and "savage tribes."  How would Tarzan fit into today's geopolitical landscape?

2. Without coming across as racist?

3.  And sexist?

4. The story is so intimately familiar, it seems impossible to put a new twist on it.

Here are the contemporary Tarzans:

Tarzan: The Epic Adventures (1996-2000).  Back in Africa without Jane, Tarzan (Joe Lara) has "epic" adventures that mostly rehash the books: he goes to Opar, Pellucidar, and so on.

The Legend of Tarzan (2001).  An animated Tarzan (Michael T. Weiss) and Jane face contemporary problems, mostly involving their friends disapproving of their relationship.

Tarzan (2003).   "This thrilling contemporary take transforms the classic Tarzan tale into a rapid-fire adventure."  Um...what was it before?  Jane is a NYPD detective who helps the Ape Man  (Travis Fimmel) combat the evil CEO of Greystoke Industries.  They also solve some regular crimes in this short-lived series.

Tarzan of the Apes (2008), a segment of Matinee, an anthology playing homage to the movies of the 1930s.    Edgar Rice Burroughs accompanies Jane to Africa.  The Ape Man, played by Aaron Sheehan,wears pants.

Tarzan Jr. and the Cuban Mercenaries (2010), an entry at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival.  Remember Boy, Tarzan's adopted son in the MGM and RKO movies?  He's all grown up (played by Quint Hankel), and has taken over for retired Dad.  He must fight the Cuban mercenaries who somehow show up in the jungle.  Sketchy black and white, like an old newsreel.

Tarzan (2013).  Tarzan (Kellan Lutz) and Jane fight the evil CEO of Greystoke Energies in this German production.

The Legend of Tarzan (2016), a sophisticated, articulate Tarzan (Alexander Skalsgaard), living in London in the 1890s, returns to Africa investigate the atrocities committed by King Leopold of Belgium (who really was responsible for the horrific exploitation of the Belgian Congo).  Wearing a loincloth.

Rory J. Saper plays the teenage, jungle-bound Ape Man.

Tarzan and Jane (2017), an animated teenage Lord of the Jungle (Giles Paton) with super-powers in a new children's tv series.


  1. There was also a series that ran from 1991-1995

  2. The 2003 movie and the *Skårsgaard adaptation both were missing the loincloth.

    Just assume pants kill a Tarzan adaptation, and Capri pants are even worse.


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