Back and forth

While Transcendence looks into the future with scientists downloading their brains, Tarzan celebrates 100 years of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ creation. A look at this week's Hollywood releases

April 16, 2014 06:11 pm | Updated May 21, 2016 11:42 am IST - chennai

A still from Tarzan

A still from Tarzan

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan was the very epitome of manliness. With his “straight and perfect figure, muscled as the best of the ancient Roman gladiators must have been muscled, and yet with the soft and sinuous curves of a Greek god, told at a glance the wondrous combination of enormous strength with suppleness and speed,” Burroughs was underlining the godliness of his creation. With long dark hair and steel-grey eyes, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke aka Tarzan is quite a hottie. Burroughs Tarzan of the Apes was published in a magazine in 1912 and in book form in 1914. The story tells of Tarzan’s parents marooned in the deepest Africa. His mother dies of natural causes when he is one year old and his father is killed by Kerchak an ape. Tarzan is brought up by a she-ape, Kala. The way he teaches himself to read is fascinating—referring to alphabets as black bugs!

Civilisation comes a calling in the form of another shipwrecked group which includes Tarzan’s cousin, and Jane Porter. The character proved so successful that Burroughs wrote a further 24 books about the king of the jungle, where he visits wild and wondrous lands including the earth’s core and also does a bit of fighting in WWII.

A pop culture phenomenon, Tarzan made his celluloid debut fairly quickly in Tarzan of the Apes , a silent film in 1918. The 12 Johnny Weissmuller films starting with Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) were popular too. There was also Bo Derek flaunting her beautiful body as Jane in a 1981 version. The one starring Christopher Lambert in 1984 was the closest to the novel and an animated Tarzan movie from Disney in 1999.

The latest episode of Tarzan’s celluloid saga comes from Germany in animated motion capture. The movie broadly follows the Tarzan story. Tarzan’s father, John Greystoke, the CEO of Greystoke Energies, is exploring a meteorite crash site when he and his wife are killed in a plane crash. Tarzan grows up to be wild man swinging from trees and the rest of it. He meets Jane and soon the duo are on the run from an army sent by the CEO of Greystoke Energies, William Clayton (Tarzan’s cousin in the book). Written and directed by German producer Reinhard Klooss, the 3D film stars Kellan Lutz, Spencer Locke, Anton Zetterholm and Jaime Ray Newman.

From the jungles of Africa, we go to Transcendence and the future. Dr. Will Caster is an artificial intelligence researcher who doesn’t believe in checks and balances. He would go to any lengths in the interests of science, including downloading his brain into a computer — that would be so cool. There are people after him who want to stop and try to do so with radioactively-tainted bullets. As Caster downloads his brain, he switches his goal from seeking knowledge to acquiring power.

Johnny Depp plays Caster. Transcendence also stars Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Cillian Murphy. The sci fi film marks the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, well known for his collaborations with Christopher Nolan from the twisty Memento (2000) right up to The Dark Knight Rises (2012). The Academy Award winning (Inception) cinematographer has turned down several films, including the Harry Potter films to be available for Nolan.

For some strange reason, science fiction and fantasy are clubbed together on bookshelves and so it is only right that Burroughs, who has written a whole lot of sci fi, in Tarzan’s centenary year, makes a joint appearance with a science fiction film.

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