The latest adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ colonialist story proves it cannot be given a modern overhaul, writes critic Sam Adams.
The Legend of Tarzan, the latest big-screen version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vine-swinging he-man, is a sincere and well-intentioned attempt to wrestle with the legacy of European colonialism in Africa. It is also a movie in which a man punches a gorilla. You could say it’s at war with itself, but it’s a war involving soldiers who are never quite sure who they’re fighting, and who are as likely to slip in the mud and break their own necks as they are to get off a clean shot.
Directed by David Yates and written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, Legend would more accurately, if less economically, be called The Legend of the Legend of Tarzan. When we pick up the story in the late 19th Century, John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård) is already an international folk hero, an English nobleman raised by apes and returned to his native land. As George Williams (Samuel L Jackson), an American soldier of fortune who’s come to persuade John to return to the Belgian Congo, puts it, he is “Africa’s favorite son”.
The irony of that epithet being bestowed by a black Civil War veteran is not lost on The Legend of Tarzan. And indeed, for a time, it seems as if Yates and company have a handle on how to reshape Edgar Rice Burroughs imperialist fantasy for the modern age. The opening sequence, in which a fastidious Belgian commander leads his soldiers through the jungle mists, is full of redolent images: the bodies of dead troops hung on makeshift crosses, their own rifles used as crossbars; an African tribesman starring indomitably into the lens, a colonist’s white linen hat perched incongruously atop his head.
King of nothing
Unfortunately, the imperative to produce a viable box-office entertainment trumps The Legend of Tarzan’s noble intentions at every turn. We’re cued to hiss at Rom (Christoph Waltz), the Belgian commander, whose first onscreen act is to rip an African flower from its stem, and who, in an especially rococo touch, uses a spider-silk rosary as an offensive weapon. But when tribal soldiers spring from the water beneath his feet, in the variable-speed slow motion that Yates abuses throughout, the effect makes them seem both more and less than human.
We meet kinder Africans later, the cheerful villagers who take John in after his battered body is discovered in the jungle. But it’s Jane (Margot Robbie), the white daughter of an American missionary, who nurses him back to health, and who later becomes his wife. It’s a story inextricably entwined with Europe’s relationship to ‘the dark continent’, and yet actual Africans keep getting pushed to the side.
The Legend of Tarzan has other problems, like its inability to decide whether it wants John Clayton to be James Bond or Aquaman – although it’s best when he’s Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone. This Tarzan doesn’t just speak to the animals: he commands them – the word “conquer” is used without apparent irony – eventually mustering an army of incompatible species to fend off an influx of Rom’s troops that would effectively make the entirety of the Belgian Congo a slave state.
One waits in vain for the revelation that Rom’s real surname is Blofeld. The movie’s initial feints at gritty relevance seem disingenuous, if not downright foolish, once John starts swinging from vines and conversing with crocodiles. At one point, the camera lingers on a boxcar full of elephant tusks, and later, we see another train carrying African men in chains. But then it’s on to another perfunctory chase scene, or a confrontation between Waltz’ moustachioed villain and Robbie’s defiant hostage. (Of course he takes her hostage: for all its contemporary touches, Legend’s plot could have been lifted from a silent melodrama.) These images of unfathomable atrocity are newspaper stuffed in the movie’s cracks, fresh filigree on a dull and worn garment.
At times, Yates seems desperate to jazz up the action, shooting one conversation between John and George in a series of whirlpooling shots that add nothing to the scene but a mild feeling of motion sickness. Perhaps it’s a way of compensating in advance for the movie’s action scenes, a lackluster jumble of weightless CGI and chiseled abs. (Yes, Skarskård’s sculpted torso is impressive, but it’s an unlikely physique for a man in the 1890s.) Major studio movies increasingly feel like acts of brand maintenance first and stories second, and Legend is the latest link in that worn-out chain. It’s a Tarzan movie because there have always been Tarzan movies, not because there was any compelling reason to add one more to the list.
At its core it’s the story of a white European who asserts his dominion, however benevolently, over wild African creatures: like Kipling’s The Jungle Book, it can be tinkered with, but its heart doesn’t change. Humans need stories, but the stories we need change, and sometimes old ones die out because the needs they addressed or the ideas they encompassed no longer apply. It might be time to let Tarzan vanish back into the jungle.
Last month astronomers from the Kepler spacecraft team announced the discovery of 1,284 new planets, all orbiting stars outside our solar system. The total number of such “exoplanets” confirmed via Kepler and other methods now stands at more than 3,000.
This represents a revolution in planetary knowledge. A decade or so ago the discovery of even a single new exoplanet was big news. Not anymore. Improvements in astronomical observation technology have moved us from retail to wholesale planet discovery. We now know, for example, that every star in the sky likely hosts at least one planet.
But planets are only the beginning of the story. What everyone wants to know is whether any of these worlds has aliens living on it. Does our newfound knowledge of planets bring us any closer to answering that question?
A little bit, actually, yes. In a paper published in the May issue of the journal Astrobiology, the astronomer Woodruff Sullivan and I show that while we do not know if any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations currently exist in our galaxy, we now have enough information to conclude that they almost certainly existed at some point in cosmic history.
Among scientists, the probability of the existence of an alien society with which we might make contact is discussed in terms of something called the Drake equation. In 1961, the National Academy of Sciences asked the astronomer Frank Drake to host a scientific meeting on the possibilities of “interstellar communication.” Since the odds of contact with alien life depended on how many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations existed in the galaxy, Drake identified seven factors on which that number would depend, and incorporated them into an equation.
The first factor was the number of stars born each year. The second was the fraction of stars that had planets. After that came the number of planets per star that traveled in orbits in the right locations for life to form (assuming life requires liquid water). The next factor was the fraction of such planets where life actually got started. Then came factors for the fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligence and advanced civilizations (meaning radio signal-emitting) evolved. The final factor was the average lifetime of a technological civilization.
Drake’s equation was not like Einstein’s E=mc2. It was not a statement of a universal law. It was a mechanism for fostering organized discussion, a way of understanding what we needed to know to answer the question about alien civilizations. In 1961, only the first factor — the number of stars born each year — was understood. And that level of ignorance remained until very recently.
That’s why discussions of extraterrestrial civilizations, no matter how learned, have historically boiled down to mere expressions of hope or pessimism. What, for example, is the fraction of planets that form life? Optimists might marshal sophisticated molecular biological models to argue for a large fraction. Pessimists then cite their own scientific data to argue for a fraction closer to 0. But with only one example of a life-bearing planet (ours), it’s hard to know who is right.
Or consider the average lifetime of a civilization. Humans have been using radio technology for only about 100 years. How much longer will our civilization last? A thousand more years? A hundred thousand more? Ten million more? If the average lifetime for a civilization is short, the galaxy is likely to be unpopulated most of the time. Once again, however, with only one example to draw from, it’s back to a battle between pessimists and optimists.
But our new planetary knowledge has removed some of the uncertainty from this debate. Three of the seven terms in Drake’s equation are now known. We know the number of stars born each year. We know that the percentage of stars hosting planets is about 100. And we also know that about 20 to 25 percent of those planets are in the right place for life to form. This puts us in a position, for the first time, to say something definitive about extraterrestrial civilizations — if we ask the right question.
In our recent paper, Professor Sullivan and I did this by shifting the focus of Drake’s equation. Instead of asking how many civilizations currently exist, we asked what the probability is that ours is the only technological civilization that has ever appeared. By asking this question, we could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization. This left us with only three unknown factors, which we combined into one “biotechnical” probability: the likelihood of the creation of life, intelligent life and technological capacity.
You might assume this probability is low, and thus the chances remain small that another technological civilization arose. But what our calculation revealed is that even if this probability is assumed to be extremely low, the odds that we are not the first technological civilization are actually high. Specifically, unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first.
To give some context for that figure: In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.
In other words, given what we now know about the number and orbital positions of the galaxy’s planets, the degree of pessimism required to doubt the existence, at some point in time, of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization borders on the irrational.
In science an important step forward can be finding a question that can be answered with the data at hand. Our paper did just this. As for the big question — whether any other civilizations currently exist — we may have to wait a long while for relevant data. But we should not underestimate how far we have come in a short time.
When you date for the very first time it might go embarrassing. This can be mainly due to lack of skill and people would not know how to behave. The errors you make might turn into really serious at times. You then find out for the guidelines of dating. You have to look at the policies of dating and need to follow as much as you could. Then you definitely would notice a transformation within your dating.
First as well as the foremost dating tips might be to get punctual. No human being is 100% perfect however you can try to be perfect as much as you could. You’ve to look your best and dress properly. If you are untidy you cannot entice anybody. Also if you’re late you then would not have the ability to develop a great impact within the minds of your date. Only if you are intelligent your partner will like to come out with you.
Finding the better half just isn’t extremely simple and you need to read through many dating tips identified online. Only if you realize the strategies of human minds you will be able to have fun. You should realize your partner’s preferences, what they go through and listen to and what they anticipate from you. If you don’t want to see her or him once again, do not conceal the very fact from them. Be bold to say the facts.
Right after having poor dates you would realize for your self what to do and what to avoid. You can list out your personal dating tips in cases like this and set your very own rules. Not each of the dating tips would suit all sorts of individuals. Additionally, it should match in to the nature. Should you be dating somebody just for fun, tell them this matter plainly. Not all of the dates would turn in to love. Don’t maintain connection with somebody having adverse ideas. If you want to find real love then you definitely should wait around for the situation till that blooms.
Tom Hiddleston has said doesn’t believe he will be the next James Bond. The actor is the popular favourite to take over from Daniel Craig, who starred in the last film, Sceptre.
“I don’t think that announcement is coming,” Hiddleston told a rowdy audience at the Wizard World Comic Con in Philadelphia last weekend. “I am very gratified to hear the enthusiasm. Your guess is as good as mine, to be honest.”
Hiddleston was first linked with the role after his appearance in The Night Manager, the BBC spy drama based on the novel by John le Carré. The show, in which the actor played an MI5 operative who wears a tux and orders martinis, was directed by In a Better World’s Susanne Bier. She is one a handful of directors rumoured to be taking over from Sam Mendes on the 25th Bond film.
While Craig has not officially left the franchise, he told Time Out magazine he would “rather slash my wrists” than play Bond again. Other actors linked to the role include Idris Elba, Tom Hardy and Damian Lewis.
Hiddleston, while expressing enthusiasm about the prospect, has repeatedly shot down rumours that he has signed on to play the spy. ‘The thing is, the position isn’t vacant, as far as I am aware. No one has talked to me about it,” he told Graham Norton in May.
“I think the rumours have all come about because in the Night Manager I play a spy and people have made the link.”
Mendes, who directed Skyfall and Spectre, both box-office successes, has said that the next Bond will not be someone the audience expects. “It’s not a democracy,” he said at the Hay literary festival last month, after announcing his retirement from the franchise. “It’s not The X Factor, it’s not the EU referendum, it’s not a public vote. [Producer] Barbara Broccoli chooses who’s going to be the next Bond. End of story.”
Emily Blunt won’t be returning for the follow-up that is set to focus on del Toro’s hitman.
Details on the sequel to Sicario – one of last year’s most underrated dramas – has begun to trickle in following its greenlight earlier this year.
Officially titled Soldado, the follow-up is moving ahead without original director Denis Villeneuve. Instead, Deadline reports that Stefano Sollima will step behind the camera. The filmmaker’s previous credits include acclaimed Italian miniseries Gomorra and gritty drama Suburra.
Casting-wise, it was previously reported that Emily Blunt would be reprising her role of idealistic FBI agent Kate Mercer. However, her decision to take on the role of Mary Poppins in Disney’s upcoming remake has officially rendered her unavailable with Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin sharing lead duties.
Their characters – hitman Alejandro Gillick and CIA Agent Matt Graves – will return in a story from Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan that continues to focus on the illegal smuggling of drugs across the border between Mexico and the U.S.
While the Spanish word ‘sicario’ means ‘hitman’ in English, the translation of ‘soldado’ is ‘soldier.’ Original director Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy) is currently hard at work making Blade Runner 2 with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and House of Cards ‘ Robin Wright.
Isabelle Huppert talks about taking the opposite view of ‘misogynistic’ director Paul Verhoeven and gracing the London stage for the first time in two decades in Phaedra(s).
There is little in the way of false modesty from Isabelle Huppert. It’s the day after the screening of Elle at the Cannes Film Festival and the Paul Verhoeven thriller has received rave reviews. It’s a sensational film adaptation of the novel Oh by Philippe Djian and sees Huppert plays a rape victim who turns the tables on her rapist. The actress is in nearly every scene of the movie and comments, “That’s why I was never bored watching it last night.”
It’s hard to argue with the sentiment, because anyone who has seen many of her 100-plus roles, since her debut in 1971, will attest that she’s usually beguiling. The magic of Huppert is that she seems to do so much by doing so little. Verhoeven raved, “She’s the best actress I’ve worked with. I just followed her instinct and let her do what she wanted.”
At the age of 63, the Paris-born star is having a vintage year. So it’s our luck that she seems to be everywhere over the next month. There is a cinematic retrospective of her work taking place in London at the Cine Lumiere and the Barbican with accompanying screen talks by the actress, and in June the Barbican Theatre is putting on Phaedra(s), Huppert’s latest theatrical performance.
It will be the first time in two decades that Huppert has graced the London stage. The play, directed by Polish auteur Krzysztof Warlikowski, has just had a two-month run in Paris; it is performed in French, so one can expect it to be a spectacle from the first night. Of course, Huppert thinks she’ll be great.
“I could do it in English, but that is not the agenda,” she chimes about the radical reconstruction of the Greek myth. “It’s not exactly Phaedra, it’s several different Phaedras, including Sarah Kane’s Phaedre’s Love and there are excerpts from the book Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee, as well as the text from Euripides.”
One imagines that even if the text was by a five-year-old, Huppert would bring something unique to the performance. She’s been at the top of her game for four decades. She won a Bafta as Most Promising Newcomer for her turn as the virginal Beatrice in The Lacemaker in 1977.
There is no other actress who could make Paul Verhoeven appear like a pussycat. The Dutch director has been described as a misogynist on countless occasions. After all, he’s famous for getting Sharon Stone to cross her legs in Basic Instinct and leaving nothing to the imagination in Showgirls; yet put Huppert in the picture and all of a sudden he makes a film that can only be described as classy, even one being referred to at Cannes as a “rape comedy”.
“You have all this talk of Verhoeven as a misogynist, but to me he’s the opposite,” says Huppert. “Ever since I discovered his first film, I saw Turkish Delight, the film was also mistaken at the time. It was taken as a semi-porno film and was released in a porno video and it only got one good review and that was in Charlie Hebdo, who said it was a masterpiece and he was a good director. So there has always been this blurred vision of him as a director.”
Huppert has recently become a cinema owner. “I’m going to digress because my son programmes a cinema I bought in Paris. It’s in the Rue Christine, and was called Action Christine and we’ve renamed it Cinema Christine 21.”
Recently, Huppert has been a lot more open about her family. She recently appeared on the cover of a magazine with Lolita Chammah, one of three children she has had with her husband of 34 years Ronald Chammah, a producer she met on the set of a 1980 Claude Chabrol movie. “She’s a good actress,” Huppert says of her daughter. “I’ll play her mother soon. I have a supporting role in a film she is making in Luxembourg. The movie talks a lot about involuntary transmission between parents and children.”
The bonds that tie a mother and daughter are also something that takes place on screen, as well as off for the actress. In another of her great roles this year, Huppert plays a woman who discovers there is life after separation in Things to Come, directed by Mia Hansen-Love. The French director once played Huppert’s daughter in Olivier Assayas’s 2000 drama Sentimental Destines.
“And now she becomes my mother,” chirps Huppert. Explaining, “A director is always a bit of a mother to an actress. You can be young and have an old soul, or old and be a young spirit.” The latter is a category that Huppert seems to fit perfectly.
“As an actress, I felt like during the film she has the power and she directed me a lot, maybe more than other directors on other occasions. She had this vision of this character being very open, and very light and instinctively, maybe my deep nature, would be to go for something darker, a little harsher.”
Indeed, there is a certain sang-froid that Huppert instills in her characters. They get their strength from the fact that nothing seems to phase them, they are able to overcome the worst horrors. It’s what made her so magnificent in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, a film that Elle has echoes of in its opening scene. The norm is that as soon as you see Huppert onscreen, you have the idea that her character will overcome all obstacles.
“Well, it’s normal that you think that,” says Huppert, when I ask her if she references her past roles when making contemporary films. “But for me, as an actress there is no link to what I’ve done previously. Because it’s me, you make the connection. People seem to think that you have connections with the roles you play, but the more I think about it, the more I realise I have nothing to do with those characters, those people are total foreigners to me.”
Last month, the first glimpse of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting sequel hit the internet in the form of leaked set shots Ewen Bremner’s Spud strolling around the streets of Edinburgh.
From that moment on, numerous photographs have hit the internet, showing the cast of the 1996 classic reunited in character.
Thanks to some pesky photographers, the first shots of Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller as Mark ‘Rent Boy’ Renton and Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson have arrived.
Surprisingly, the down-and-out heroin addicts look relatively dressed up, both wearing suits as they enter a government building. However, Sick Boy still has his bleached blonde hair.
The sequel will be based on author Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting sequel, Porno, which was released in 2002.
Recently speaking about filming in Scotland, Boyle said: “I feel very fortunate and grateful to be able to make films, and to be able to always have a choice in what I do.
“Coming back to Edinburgh has actually been really fascinating, since filming the first Trainspotting Edinburgh has changed dramatically. You can see the gentrification massively in the city.”
The British Fashion Council has announced 4 designers set to show their collections to the public during London Fashion Weekend.
Fashion week may once have been an industry insiders only event but thanks largely to the influence of the internet, social media and a band of very popular bloggers or social influencers – everyone wants to get involved.
Sadly almost all fashion week shows have an invite-only policy that restricts the guestlist to fashion press, buyers and other industry figures. So unless you have the required skills to slip past a burly bouncer unnoticed, you’ll be left out in the cold (or tuning in online for the live stream).
Recent seasons have seen some moves towards the democratisation of fashion shows, most notably last year which saw Givenchy’s New York spring/summer 2016 show open its doors with some tickets made available to the public. And now it seems London Fashion Week will be following in its footsteps.
The BFC yesterday announced that London Fashion Weekend (the consumer-event that follows London Fashion Week) will this season see designers present their collections to the public.
Mary Katrantzou, Emilia Wickstead, Holly Fulton and Temperley London are the names announced so far who will be hosting catwalk shows at the 4 day long event which will be held this year at the Saatchi Gallery.
Whilst catwalk shows are not new to the event – the usual format is trend presentations featuring a variety of brands – this season’s offering however, will allow visitors to get an authentic fashion-insider experience with an in-depth look at the participating designer’s collections.
In addition the BFC have also announced a series of talks which will be held over the weekend hosted by an array of industry figures from designers Nicholas Kirkwood and Charlotte Dellal to Premier Models founder Carole White.
There will of course also be the usual shopping opportunities that London Fashion Weekend has become famous for.