Monday, July 11, 2016


How do - Poptique here; back from a long and deafening silence to drop yet another bad pun for a title. 

I've been awoken to muse upon the mildy tragic sight of another icon-of-yesteryear hobbling onto the screen to fall flat on his proverbial.

This year it's the turn of Tarzan, the original king of the swingers and proper superhero prototype; but a character now so sadly dog-eared that it almost seems unfathomable a studio should take a $180 million throw-of-the-dice on there still being life in the old tree-dweller.

Whatever way you trim the 104 year-old-character, he's outlived his era by a substantial margin. 

Even in the 60s, his films were being shoved to the lower half of double bills in support of the latest Jerry Lewis buffoonery, so what hope does the barrel-chest beater have now? 

Great names associated with Tarzan over his most popular decades - from creator Edgar Rice Burroughs and initial onscreen actor Elmo Lincoln, to legendary comic-strip artist Burne Hogarth - seem like a roll call from a period even more distant than the century-plus the Ape-man has been swinging from vine to vine.

Let's be honest - the romantic sweep of an industrial age babe growing up at one with nature and becoming it's master, has unavoidably morphed into the seat-shifting uncomfortable story of the homo-superior - a member of the aristocracy raised by apes to become some sort of white-god. Plus, post the poetic sight of David Attenborough snuggling up to a whole heap of gorillas, it feels distasteful to see some greasy-haired dude running about with and/or beating the shit out of computer generated primates.

The star of over 200 films - both official and knocked off - Tarzan was born out of pulp magazines into an Edwardian world ebbing steadily towards the end of colonialism, still unavoidably choc-full of patriarchal white-supremacy - which just makes the whole concept seem a bit odd plastered all over billboards in 2016.

Pop onto Netflix and out of those 200+ films you'll find exactly zero available to stream. Whilst Netflix is no serious barometer of cultural taste, it's still a sober indicator of how massively Tarzan has fallen off the radar.

Do kids today have any name-recognition beyond the pleasant Disney adaption from 1999? They certainly didn't turn up to the few cinemas that screened the ill-advised 2014 CGI version of the tale. In fact, every live action outing for the loincloth clad adventurer since 1981's decidedly saucy Tarzan the Ape Man has been a significant financial failure - making this latest version all the more inexplicable. 

It's a long way from the days when the character graced competing movie-franchises, radio shows, comic books, and popsicle wrappers. 

From my own perspective, growing up in the 80s, the Ape-man was still hanging high on TV - whether it was the stilted animated Filmation series or the summer-holiday schedules littered with Johnny Weismullers and Lex Barkers.


Back then, one was much more open to the sight of some poor old moth-eaten animal being wrestled to a stand-still by a stuntman. I'm not sure I could stomach too much of that today - not that the new version doesn't come with it's own self-destruct time-bomb in the shape of CGI effects already dated by the time they hit the big screen. The sight of 1000 very similarly rendered wilder-beast busting up the town kind of pails compared to a troop of real-live Elephants genuinely trashing up the place - despite the unfortunate addition of paper-mâché ears, required to turn MGM's inhouse Indian elephants into genuine African examples.

So does this mean that the inevitable failure of the new film mean the end of Tarzan's big screen adventures? 

Time will tell - as although Netflix is no home for his back-catalog, they do plan on airing an all-new series entitled Tarzan and Jane which updates their adventures to present day where a claw-footed '16 year old Tarzan returns from Africa to a London boarding school where he is a fish-out-of-water and challenges conformity'. 

Let that just sit there and percolate for a bit....

What this does mean, is that ol'Poptique has blown the fuller's earth from his keyboard, cricked his ever-more creaking fingers and will be pumping out a small series of highfalutin features on the King of the Jungle. 

Why? Because there's a slim chance this most recent outing for the Ape-man might be the last on this scale for some considerable time...


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