Sony Gains Tarzan’s Film Rights, Plans ‘Total Reinvention’ of the Character

Tarzan hasn’t had the best luck on the big screen in recent years, but perhaps he can thrive with help from a new studio. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sony has acquired Tarzan’s film rights from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. It’s still early, but the studio already has bold plans to reinvent the author’s most famous creation for a modern audience.

Burroughs introduced Tarzan in a series of tales published in the pulp magazine The All-Story beginning in 1912. In 1914, these stories were collected and released in novel form as Tarzan of the Apes. Since then, the legendary Ape Man has appeared in just about every medium, becoming one of the most iconic fictional characters over the last 100+ years.

The very first Tarzan movie came out in 1918 as a silent film starring Elmo Lincoln as the character. Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller later played the role in 12 films released throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s. In 1999, Disney released its own critically-acclaimed animated Tarzan feature, which is largely remembered for its soundtrack consisting entirely of Phil Collins songs. The character’s most recent live-action movie, The Legend of Tarzan, premiered in 2016 and starred Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan and Margot Robbie as his love interest, Jane.

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Sony doesn’t have any talent attached to a potential Tarzan reboot yet. But apparently, the studio is developing the project as a “top-down re-imagining” of the character’s story, which sounds a lot like what Warner Bros. attempted to pull off with The Legend of Tarzan more than six years ago. Unfortunately, this new take on the mythology didn’t resonate with moviegoers, earning mixed reviews and falling short of commercial expectations.

It’s also unclear if Sony’s film will borrow elements from any specific Tarzan stories. As THR notes, many of Burroughs’ works are in the public domain, meaning rights issues don’t necessarily apply. Regardless, his estate still owns the character’s trademark, and the author’s later stories remain protected under existing IP laws.

What are your hopes for a new Tarzan movie? Tell us your ideas in the comment section below!

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