It's about time someone checked in on the King of the Apes. While the Avengers have been assembling and Superman and the various members of the Justice League have been desperately trying to whip themselves into shape, poor old Greystoke has long fallen from favour. Even Hercule Poirot saw a bit of a resurgence last year. When was the last time anyone really cared about Tarzan? No, George of the Jungle doesn't count, and 2016's The Legend of Tarzan was hardly a raging success.
His fans are still out there though, and this documentary lovingly checks in on the original superhero for an in-depth look at his many adventures since his creation by Edgar Rice Burroughs. A number of the most important movie, TV and comic book adaptations are covered here, from early inception to the most modern. Tarzan may be going through something of a lull, no longer cool in this day and age, but you wouldn't know it from this celebratory look at the character, his history and how he's changed over the years. The film comes loaded with plenty of clips from previous adaptations (most notably the 2016 movie, and 1984's Greystoke). Previous Tarzans pop up as talking heads too, giving Christopher Lambert fans a much-needed fix in these dire times of Lambert scarcity.
Everyone involved is captured on fine form, and there are some great anecdotes here; especially where the older films are concerned, Ron Ely discussing that one time he straight-up fought a tiger for his scenes in the 1966 TV series. If anything, the glasses are a little too rose-tinted at times, the socio-political context of the character and modern reception glossed over in an all-out celebration with no room to examine why audiences seem to have called time on this iteration of Tarzan for now. As if to illustrate the point, TV's Wolf Larson laughs about the time he kept pushing a monkey off a chair, and blonde-haired, blue-eyed walking (barely), talking White Saviour Narrative Alexander Skarsgård rescues grateful helpless slaves from a train. Nobody needs a celebratory Tarzan documentary to spend most of its time unpacking how ‘#problematic’ some Tarzan stories can be, but Tarzan Revisited doesn't address the African Elephant in the room.
Also not addressed: Disney's Tarzan or George of the Jungle. Presumably due to rights issues, there's no sign of Tarzan's most famous modern movie, nor his comedic spin-off. Robert de Young's approach to this is by not acknowledging their existence at all, creating another distracting void in an otherwise comprehensive documentary.
Tarzan Revisited could have delved further, but what is covered here satisfies. There are plenty of clips from the movies discussed, most effectively used in a tremendous action montage and a surprisingly erotic dissection of the time Tarzan Turned Sexy. Fans should enjoy the good cheer and celebratory element of the proceedings, while newbies may find themselves assembling quite the to-watch list. It even nearly makes The Legend of Tarzan look worthwhile. Nearly.
TARZAN REVISITED / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ROBERT DE YOUNG / SCREENPLAY: ERIC ELLENA, ROBERT DE YOUNG / STARRING: LYDIE DENIER, RON ELY, SCOTT TRACY GRIFFIN, CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT, CASPER VAN DIEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUSTRALIA), TBC (UK)