Warner Brothers’ production of Tarzan is finally well underway. The film, helmed by Harry Potter director David Yates and starring True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård as the vine-swinging, loin-clothed hero of yore, has been in the works for a few years now, facing several setbacks and production delays. But the reboot of the century-old story of the boy raised by apes in the jungles of Africa is on its way back to the big screen.
In a press release earlier this week, the studio announced that principal photography is underway. Warner Brothers had originally hoped to have this phase of production in-hand over a year ago, but casting issues as well as production schedules hampered their plans - not to mention major budget concerns, especially in the face of another classic hero of the early 20th century making a tepid return to the cinema at the peak of the 2013 season. Check out the new official Tarzan synopsis, below:
It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan (Skarsgård) left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Robbie) at his side. Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Captain Leon Rom (Waltz). But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.
There have been few updates to the plot since we last saw it summarized. It’s a fairly thin premise, sure; but in the end, few care why Tarzan is going back to the jungle - they only care that he is going back, because no one is interested in a story about how well a savage can keep Downton Abby-style dinner conversation lively. Or the notion of Alexander Skarsgård fully clothed.
John Hurt (the war Doctor) has been added to the cast alongside Djimon Hounsou, Samuel L Jackson, Two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall St.) - who beat out Jessica Chastain and Emma Stone for the role of Jane alongside Skarsgård’s Tarzan.
Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the apeman originally appeared in a short stories in 1912 and the first novelization of his adventures debuted in 1914. Since then, Tarzan has run the gamut of entertainment media; following the novels there were two successful radio shows (1932-1936 and 1951-1953) - and starting in the mid-fifties, his iconic jungle call became a staple of Saturday morning television, and help cement the viewing block as prime kid-friendly fare. This live-action show lead to several animated series through the sixties and the seventies, and further series have been produced as recently as 2003.
On the big screen Tarzan is just as prevalent. Starting in 1918, there are over 200 films listed on the IMDB with Tarzan as the titular role; but recently these films have gone out of favor. The most recent animated film, simply named Tarzan, was panned by critics and audiences alike - nothing like its predecessor, the Disney powerhouse by the same name. In recent memory there have been only three live-action portrayals of the iconic hero: 1998’s Tarzan and the Lost City, 1984’s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, and 1981’s Tarzan the Ape Man. Of these, only the ’84 release garnered any decent critical or box-office results.
Set for a July 1st, 2016 release, Tarzan is up against some stiff competition that weekend (Angry Birds, Independence Day II), not to mention all summer long (X-Men: Apocalypse, Batman V Superman, etc). So in a summer chock full of sequels and franchise extending superheroes, is there room for an antiquated nostalgic jungle tale?
It’s really anyone’s guess; Tarzan could go the way of The Lone Ranger - or it could have enough history and cinematic clout behind it to start up a whole new series engine, like Godzilla seems to have done this year. Or it could flounder somewhere in the middle like so many attempts at franchise seeding - like Pacific Rim, relying on the foreign box office to keep it breathing. Warner Brothers, at least, is betting on the apeman; it remains to be seen if the audiences do as well.
Tarzan will be in theaters on July 1st, 2016.
Source: Warner Bros.