- Movie Rating -

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)

| March 30, 1984

I have probably seen every Tarzan movie that was ever made, most of them terrible, but all with the realization that Tarzan is not a character that you can really do much with once you take him away from his basic preoccupations: rescuing Jane, falling in love, swinging through the trees and communicating with the apes.

I didn’t’ much like Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes but I admit a certain affection for it, largely because I know that director Hugh Hudson, who previously directed Chariots of Fire, wanted to do something seriously here.  He wants to explore the origins and real-world implications of Tarzan.  What would happen to a child raised by apes?  What would happen the first time that he saw a white woman in the flesh?  What would happen once he was pulled in civilization completely cold?

That movie does a good job of trying to answer those questions.  The problem is that it’s not very interesting.  We meet Tarzan as an infant, the lone survivor of a shipwreck off the west coast of Africa who is raised by apes and becomes, I guess, their king.  Those are the best parts of the movie because we see a baby in the wild raised by wild animals and we see him grow up without human interaction.

Where it falters is once he is found by white men who persuade him to come back home to England.  Yes, there he falls in love with the beautiful Jane (Andie McDowell) and finds the jungles of civilization to be a territory that he simply can’t traverse.  Communication with humans is difficult.  The idea of domesticity is difficult.  The whole world is alien to him.  And from here is where the movie falls apart because the movie really doesn’t know what to do with Tarzan.  Okay, so he doesn’t understand what a house is, or a fork or a spoon.  Once we establish that, the movie is kind of over.

Greystoke needed a third act.  It needed some problem to be solved that only Tarzan could solve or have him learn a skill that could later be used to solve a problem.  It kind of ends exactly where you might expect it to but with a character as action-packed as Tarzan, the ending is really kind of dull.  I give Hudson points for trying but perhaps this experiment is all to tell us that a realistic Tarzan just isn’t all that interesting.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Drama