I just finished watching  Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. While there are many things I’d like to say about it, as a story, as a movie, and as a comic event, one thing really grabbed my attention.

At the end of every movie released to DVD or video, there are a series of statements about copyright laws and how they apply to you. These statements are made in languages the production company expects the movie to appear in.

I just spent eight minutes of my life watching (approximately) thirty eight languages scroll the same message past me about when and where it was okay for me to play this movie. There were languages I couldn’t even identify on this list, and I consider myself well educated.

Think about that, o ye who feel alone. Consider that when you think no one else gets it.


What’s in a Game? Part 3

I spend a lot of time pretending to be someone else. I always have. When I was a kid, I would go out in the side yard and play superhero. When I was really young, it was always Superman, Batman and Aquaman, because those were the cartoons I was watching at that time.  As I got older and discovered actual comic books, the characters changed. I became Spider-Man or the Thing.  As I met new characters in various media, my personal cast would change. I became Steve Austin, Lucky Starr, Mar-Vell, or, my perennial favorite Mr. Spock.

As I grew up, I started creating my own characters, usually some sort of paragon or another.  I would mix and match traits, and run through dialog and scenes in my head. Various household objects became amazing devices. My personal favorite was a 30-60-90 triangle that could channel enough cosmic power through it to shave the tops off mountains.

Then I discovered D&D.

I can still hear the angelic chorus even now as I remember that day. I was twelve years old  in the local toy store with a treasure trove to spend, a whole fifteen dollars, when I walked past a shelf with an unassuming box on it. It wasn’t a really thick box, but it had the word “Dragons” on it, so it earned a second look. The back of the box promised to help bring my fantasy adventures to life. What more could I ask? Money changed hands, and the box came home with me.

Dungeons and Dragons swept through my internal world like a kleptomaniac with a get out of jail free card. In a matter of days I went from playing superheroes to Aragorn and Elric. Household items became less important than a good straight stick to use as a sword. I would wander out into the woods near my house and slay all manner of imaginary terrors . . . and then sic them on my friends. What fun!! As the game evolved I went out and bought the newer, larger books. My best friend and I would spend entire weekends slaying monsters and racking up treasure. The adventures of the mighty wizard Gorgonzola still make me chuckle to this day. (For the record, he wasn’t MY mighty wizard. The name was too cheesy for me. It was only later I discovered that was because  it was an actual cheese.)

Since then, Dungeons and Dragons has always been part of my gaming life. When they upgraded to third edition, I went along. When they  upgraded to 3.5 I followed along again, spending hundreds of dollars. I drew the line at 4th edition. I have yet to buy a single book. It hasn’t stopped me from playing the game. I am still a semi regular in a fourth edition D&D game to this day. I’m totally dependent on the rest of the group for the rules, but that’s okay. When a rules issue comes up, they tell me how it works these days and I nod, smile, and kick monster butt.

Now let’s be honest, D&D isn’t the best game in the world, no matter what standard you choose to measure it by. The class/level system doesn’t reflect how people develop in the real world. I am not my job. I have interests that range beyond it, questions that have nothing to do with it, and needs it doesn’t fulfill (which perhaps explains why I got into gaming in the first place.). But D&D doesn’t allow for that in their character system. You can change paths, sure, but you still have to walk a path.This becomes especially true in Fourth edition. You pick an archetype, progress along a very narrow track, making one or two decisions each level to define your character, get your stuff and move on.

Then there’s the combat system. While the game has literally decades of experience to draw from, it still clings to some basic tenets from long ago, like Armor Class. Every system handles combat differently, infusing what reality they can into the process. As the  prototype, D&D has more bugs than most, which loyal fans insisted make the journey. Armor class is one of them, in my opinion. Armor doesn’t prevent hits. It protects from harm.  I understand the abstractions that dictate the system. I can appreciate them and work with them. I also see where they go wrong.  The system limits your options.

Fourth edition goes even further down this road, taking nearly all of the creativity out of combat. You select a target,  run down a list of options, pick one, resolve it, and wait for your next turn. Granted, it does tend to speed up the game, but it takes some of the fun out of it, too. Gone are the brilliant improvisations that rely on the environment. You don’t even have the limited versatility of the magic system (Another flaw, by the way. Spells per day as a hard limit makes no sense at all to me.) to help you out. There are only the power cards, the numbers and the dice.

Despite it all, I don’t foresee a  time when there won’t be D&D books on my shelves somewhere. The system is clunky, sure.  It has holes and flaws, but that’s hardly a shock.  Every system does.  But we have too much history together for me to just walk away. When I think of minions or cannon fodder, I think first of orcs. When I imagine a wizard spell, the first thing I see is a fireball. And the word cleric conjures images of armored mace carrying holy men, not scholarly religious figures in conference rooms. In fact, D&D 3.5  is the first system I introduced to my kids. And it’s paying off, too.

Now they’re running games for me.

Hear that? That’s what an angelic chorus sounds like.

What’s in a Game? Part 2

Gamers field a lot of questions from people once they realize our passion. One of the most frequent ones is “Why do you play all those games?”  It sounds like an easy question, but when you’re talking to someone that just doesn’t get it, making your case gets. . . complicated.

Games give us more than a lot of people realize. First and foremost, of course, is the entertainment value. That’s the easy part. When you sit down to play a game your first goal is to have a good time, and any game designer worthy of the title will do their best to make sure you do.  But there is much more than that going on. See, games also teach us. Think about the first games you ever played. You know, the old classics, like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, or maybe you cut your gaming teeth on Ravensburg games. The objective were clear, the mechanics blindingly simple. And while you were playing it, you learned to take turns. You learned how to win, and even more importantly, how to lose. Social skills are really what those games are all about.

As you grew older, you moved into the more advanced stuff. Clue taught you basic deductive reasoning. Monopoly disguised math and simple economics training as a fun afternoon. Battleship schooled you in the art of logic and patterns. Stratego taught you basic strategy, and threw in a smattering of history when you asked question like “Why is the Field Marshal so strong?” (For my part, Stratego was also a continuation on the “how to lose well,” lesson. Anyone in need of an ego boost need merely bring a Stratego set to my house. My humiliation is likely to follow soon after that.) Checkers showed you the value of looking ahead, a lesson Chess sharpened. Scrabble improved your spelling and your vocabulary. Concentration trained your memory, Perfection honed your fine motor skills, and Twister showed you new meanings of the word “pain,” you were were probably sorry you learned. Or was that just me?

Many people stop there. The world becomes more important than the game board. They move on and get their lessons shipped direct by living. But for those who continued on the gamer’s path, there were games like Scruples, which forced you to think about ethics, to form arguments and consider alternate positions. Trivial Pursuit shone a light on pop culture and history, while giving you a chance to look back on your life as you searched for the answers.

Say you went on from there, into historical strategy games. From Axis and Allies to World In Flames, these games schooled you in the lessons of logistics, the finer points of strategy, and if you were curious, detailed history. You learned places, names, dates. You learned why Rommel was called the Desert Fox, and what effects mobile artillery had on a battlefield.

And then there are those games which teach you the most important lessons of all, how to conquer the world and rule it after you do.

There are many games out there teaching this mighty lesson, but in my house we only really play two of them. The first is MWAHAHAHA! (No really, that’s what it’s called.) from White Wolf. I’m not sure if this game is in print any more, but as it’s a fairly recent release you should still be able to find it. MWAHAHAHA! is a whimsical romp of a game in which you play a mad scientist bent on global domination. But rather than build an army or go out and blackmail a bunch of people, you decide to do it the old fashioned way. You build a doomsday device and threaten to use it.  You have a base, which determines what resources are easiest for you to get, empires, which are business that supplement  your base and contribute resources, and minions to protect them and steal the resources from others. And yes, Virginia, there are flying monkeys in the minion deck. As you gather resources and build your device, you gain the power to threaten larger and larger areas, beginning with cities, then counties, then states, countries, and finally THE ENTIRE WORLD!! (When we play, villainous speeches are optional, but appreciated.)   Some devices are easy to build, but difficult to use. Others are expensive to build, but almost assure your victory once complete. With evil geniuses like Doctor Dookie, C’Horthutuk, Professor  Kontiki, and Hypatia Gutterjunque using devices that create tsunamis, incite bestial behavior, or that time honored favorite, raise the dead, conquering the world and ruling over its pitiable masses has never been more fun. The game takes two to three hours to play, but hey, taking over the world takes time.

For the more sophisticated conqueror, there is Steve Jackson’s Illuminati. Lurking behind the scenes of modern society, the Illuminati are a shadowy group of conspirators using guile, treachery, political wherewithal, and lots and lots of money to influence and eventually control the world. Perhaps you are the Bavarian Illuminati, pulling the strings of power from the castles of Germany. Or maybe you are the Gnomes of Zurich, using your limitless wealth to steer the course of human destiny. Maybe you’re a Servant of Cthulhu and just want to watch the world burn. It’s even possible to be the UFOs, and stir the pot of humanity from your safe haven among the stars. Using your influence and unique powers, you infiltrate organizations like the Pentagon, C.I.A., and arms smugglers, or fund crackpots like the Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow, or my personal favorite, the Semiconscious Liberation Army. Hey, I could be doing the work of the Illuminati right now, because Bloggers are also a group you can control. Some groups offer tangible benefits to your plot to control the world. Others just add bodies. Spend a little money on expansions and you gain access to Artifacts, like Einstein’s Brain of the Holy Grail. As you play, you see your influence spread over the world through the power structure you construct. A quick game of Illuminati takes about two hours. Longer ones can go deep into the night, which is where the best conquering happens anyway. You can play with two or three players if you want, but the game is MUCH more fun with four or more. It supports up to six players.

When we feel like conquering the world, this is how we do it in my house. How about you? Do you have a favorite way to rule the unsuspecting peons that make up this complex society? What are they?

What’s in a Game? Part 1

I have met people that play D&D, and only D&D, that call themselves gamers. Or perhaps their thing is Call of Cthulhu. Maybe they live and breathe GURPS. But when they play an RPG, they play the same one every time.  Or maybe they are heavily into the electronic gaming thing. Sure they play lots of different games, but they stick to one medium.   They don’t play table-top games of any stripe. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s what you like, by all means have a great time. I think  it’s kind of cute how they call themselves gamers, though.

I am a gamer. I have a bookshelf near my office that is just loaded with RPG systems. The reason they are near my office is because I don’t have room for them in my office with all the other books I keep there.   I’ve run or played most of them, and read all of them more than once. I have another shelf in my basement dedicated to board and card games. I had a young guest come to my house once, and when she came upstairs, she looked at me with eyes wide and said, “You have seventy four games.”

“Those are just the ones you can see”, I replied.

That was a couple of years ago. There are more now.

My one weakness as a gamer comes in the field of electronic games. My wife and I decided early on to keep video games to a minimum in our house, so we have a Wii. Our only other platform is the one I’m typing on now. But I don’t mind that, because electronic games, while they can be tremendous fun,  lack a key element I get out of a game.

I get to play with people.

Like many writers, I tend to be reserved around people I don’t know very well. I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but I am usually the guy in the back watching what everyone else is doing.  Put me in a room full of total strangers and a game we can all agree to play, though, and I’m at the center of the action. Games provide an instant framework, a built in topic for conversation, and something fun to do all at once. You can learn a lot about a person by playing games with them.

So for the next few posts, I’m going to write about my favorite games

I’m particularly fond of co-operative games, where players win or lose as a team. There are many out there, from the day long epic battle that is Arkham Horror, to the quick playing Forbidden Tower. My personal favorite so far is a game called Pandemic, from Z-Man Games, in which researchers and scientists from the Center for Disease Control battle plagues in a race against time. It’s quick to learn and you can play a complete game in about an hour, an invaluable trait for a game when your family is as busy as mine gets. With the On The Brink expansion, it has enough variations to make the game extremely re-playable. I still haven’t played the Mutation variation, but I am eager to.  The game is challenging to win, and fun to play.

Another excellent co-operative game is Witch of Salem, from Kosmos. Set in H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, the Witch of Salem pits intrepid investigators against horrors from beyond the stars. A mad priest named Necron is trying to open a gate in Arkham Massachusetts to allow a Great Old One into the world. If he succeeds, the people that don’t get eaten immediately will go mad, then get eaten. Investigators travel the town, sealing gates and defeating monsters while they gather the information they need to stop Necron. I have yet to win this game in my several attempts, but I’ve come within one turn of winning twice, only to have hope snatched from my grasp at the last second.  Like Pandemic, you can play a full game in about an hour, give or take. It’s slightly more complicated than Pandemic as well, but it plays smoothly once you have the hang of it.

On the other end of the complexity scale is  Arkham Horror, from Fantasy Flight games. Like the Witch of Salem, Arkham Horror has ordinary mortals battling for survival in a town swarming with monsters zombies and . . .things. Another Lovecraft inspired game,it also features a Great Old One stirring and consequences most dire looming. While you can play Witch of Salem in an hour, Arkham Horror takes nearly that long just to set up, and can last eight hours or more easily. I have only played this game three times, and only finished it once. However, the game plays like a well written story, with quests, treasures and even some possible plot lines.  If you have a day to set aside, a game of Arkham Horror can make it a memorable one.

For an interesting twist on the co-operative game, I like Betrayal at House on the Hill, a re-release by Avalon Hill games. Several friends get together and explore the old House on the Hill for a lark, and wind up battling for their lives when one of them goes mad and tries to kill them. Or possibly they want to keep them from saving someone else, or maybe even take them home to their own dimension and save them in little jars on their shelves.  The beauty here is, you really don’t know. In terms of re-playablility, I have never seen any game that is the equal of Betrayal. The players build the House as they play, drawing room cards and placing them as they explore. At a randomly determined point in the game, a random player becomes a traitor. There are fifty possible haunt scenarios, each with its own set of winning conditions for each side. Most of the time you will know who the traitor is. Sometimes you won’t. And in a few cases, there isn’t a traitor at all, but something else threatens your lives and/or souls. So far, the game seems balanced so both the Traitor and the Heroes have an equal shot at victory. It has a wonderfully creepy atmosphere, and fairly intuitive game play.

If you have friends over and an hour or so to spare (Or a day or two in the case of Arkham Horror,) a game can be a great way to have fun. The games I mention here have kept my family happily entertained for hours. I think they would do the same for you.

Old Friends

Wandering the fertile realms of sci-fi and fantasy has introduced me to many interesting people. I’ve gazed upon paragons, such as Superman. I’ve shared the struggles of ordinary mortals thrust into events beyond their control, in Mordor and beyond. There are people  that have impressed me, confused me, intrigued  me, and one or two that have terrified me. But along the way there are people I came to know very well. They live in books I read over and over again, books so well loved I don’t even need to search for the good parts any more. They just fall open to them at a touch. Let me introduce you to some of these friends.

David and Leigh Eddings wrote several fantasy series together, but their first was undoubtedly their best. The Belgariad is just full of people I really enjoyed the company of. Durnik, Silk, Mandorallen and Barak are people I would recognize anywhere if I saw them, and while I wouldn’t want to fight any of them, I would love to hoist a tankard with all of them. (But if Silk were there, I’d leave my money at home.) These men are so very different, yet play off each other brilliantly. Silk, the amoral rogue and brilliant spy, is probably my favorite to watch, but Mandorallen, “the greatest knight on life,” as he modestly claims, is the one I’d spend the most time with.  Belgarath and his daughter Polgara, excellent characters though they are, walk in too lofty a circle for the likes of me. I doubt Polgara would give me the time of day, let alone spend time in my presence. Belgarath would be great fun if I could get him telling stories, but he’s a bit busy. As an ensemble cast, they are tremendous fun and a nearly unbeatable team. I have whiled away many an hour in their company traveling the world at the demand of the Prophecy that drives them.

Miles Vorkosigan is a different sort of person altogether. I’m not certain we could ever be friends, but I would be honored to work for the man. Lois McMaster Bujold’s greatest creation (in my opinion, of course,) and his family have won her four Hugo Awards and nominations for six more, and for good reason. Miles is a man driven to excel. Physically disadvantaged from birth in a military crazed culture that deplores mutants, Miles is the son of one of the greatest men of his generation. His deformities are the result of an attack suffered by his parents when he was in utero, rendering him brittle and sickly most of his life. But his mind is a tool he wields  with tremendous skill. Rather than try to hurt his enemies, Miles tends to co-opt them. As he puts it, and I paraphrase, “Why should I try to beat their strengths, when I can maneuver them to a place where that strength is useless?” Miles’ loyalty, whether to his servants, his friends, or his world is uncompromising, his approach to problems unique, and his sense of humor hilarious. Bujold’s style lets us into his life in a deeply personal way. We see his struggles, which makes cheering for his successes all the more satisfying. And the rest of his family and friends are equally impressive. As much as I treasure time spent with Miles, his father Aral Vorkosigan could claim my loyalty in a hot second, and his mother Cordelia is a woman not to be trifled with.

And then there is Harry Dresden, star of the Dresden Files novels created by Jim Butcher. Remember a couple of paragraphs ago when I said some people have terrified me? Harry Dresden is on the short list. Which is odd when you consider some of the other short lists he makes, such as “Person I would trust with my life.”  Harry is a wizard living in Chicago. In fact, he’s the only entry under “Wizard,” in the Chicago phone book. And friends, Harry is the real deal. This is a man who commands the forces of nature, who stands between us and things too terrible to contemplate. The facts that he read a lot of comics as a kid and plays RPG’s to relax (he plays a Barbarian.) are merely incidental, and don’t pander to my interests at all. There have been thirteen Dresden files novels so far, and of those there are only two I have not read at least three times. (I will not prejudice the jury and say which ones they are, if only to provide you with more incentive to find out for yourself.)  Harry is a dedicated man, surrounded by characters that are real and compelling. His challenges are epic, the risks he takes meeting them truly terrifying, and his solutions bold and unexpected. As dynamic and powerful as his enemies are, his friends are even better. Karrin Murphy, Harry’s closest friend, is either the best or second best female character I have ever read. Her only competition is Cordelia Vorkosigan. (Edding’s Polgara rounds out the top three. Do you see a pattern here?)

There are more out there. I could go on about Corwin, Prince of Amber. We could talk about Rincewind or Commander Vimes, and the many excellent Discworld characters from the mind of Terry Pratchett. If I wandered out of genre for a moment we could dwell on Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. But in genre, these three sets of characters are the ones I return to again and again when I want to feel welcome or wonder.  If you haven’t met them yet, I urge you to go make plans to as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed.

Elementary, My Dear Sherlock

sherlockelementaryYou’ll never guess what this one is about.

BBC began a delightful experiment in late 2010. They took the works of the great Arthur Conan Doyle and reinterpreted them, bringing his greatest character forward through the many decades  to 2010. Yes, I speak of the Great Detective himself, the immortal Sherlock Holmes. First introduced to the world on November 20, 1886 in the story A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes  and his friend through many adventures Dr. John Watson began a long and illustrious career, solving crimes beyond the ken of the inimitable Scotland Yard. As the decades passed, Sherlock Holmes became the standard of criminal deduction. The Great Detective saw all, observed all, and deduced an astounding amount. He has earned an ever elusive status of being his own adjective. (Come on. I can’t be the only one that describes a particularly incisive example of deductive reasoning as Sherlockian. (In fact, I know I’m not, I just can’t prove it right now because I read too much and can’t narrow down a source.))

The experiment bore tremendous fruit. It was so successful, CBS decided to throw their hat into the ring and create their own version of the same concept, because anything worth doing is worth doing twice. And here I am, a blogger on a site dedicated to genre related stuff that has already mentioned this subject once many moons ago. So what am I to do? I am nearly duty bound to express an opinion. So let’s get on with it,shall we?

Jonny Lee Miller plays Sherlock Holmes in Elementary, with Lucy Liu playing opposite him as Dr. Joan Watson. The premise is straightforward. Sherlock Holmes, in recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction, leaves London to take up his consulting detective business in New York. He has a contact in the NYPD, a captain who worked with Scotland Yard with the Great Detective before his fall. Sherlock sets about re-establishing his credentials on these shores, with Watson, his sobriety partner, following in his wake attempting to solve her own puzzle, the man named Holmes. Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes is energetic, eccentric, erratic, and brilliant.  Estranged from his father, living in , as he approximately puts it, “the most dilapidated of his (father’s)  five properties in New York,” Holmes spends his days raising bees, sharpening his prodigious skills, and waiting for the police scanner or a phone call to reveal his next great case. We are shown hints of a tragic past, tantalized with mention of an apparently deceased (yeah, sure.) woman named Irene Adler, and left wondering what is to come as Holmes works his deductive magic on crimes unsolved, or sometimes even unnoticed,  by the NYPD.

In Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch plays the title role opposite Martin Freeman’s John Watson, a doctor and veteran of the war in Afghanistan. The series begins at their introduction, with Watson looking for a flatmate in London while he recuperates from his traumatic experiences. When he looks up an old friend from school, he is introduced to Sherlock Holmes, and swept into his world as much by curiosity as financial necessity. We meet Mycroft Holmes, who occupies a minor post in the English government, watch Holmes trade banter with Inspector Lestrade, and learn that Scotland Yard, while appreciating Sherlock’s undeniable talents, holds him somewhat at arm’s length because of his nature. Holmes, as one detective observes, gets off on crimes. The weirder they are, the better he likes them. There is even the fear that one day waiting for the crimes to happen won’t be enough. One day they fear they’ll find a body on the ground and discover it was Sherlock Holmes that put it there. Cumberbatch’s Holmes is also energetic, but where Johnny Lee Miller is eccentric, Cumberbatch gives us obsessive. Instead of an erratic Lee Miller, we see an intense Benedict. They converge again at brilliant.

Elementary works very hard to make the show work. Sherlock Holmes is everything he is supposed to be, something of an outsider, but undeniably brilliant. He works through his cases with the panache one expects of the Great Detective, seeing each case as a collection of pieces waiting to be assembled. Miller captures his arrogance well, and handles his separation from we mere mortals competently. My biggest problem comes from the nature of the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Lucy Liu is not to blame here. She is handling the character she has been handed very well, in my opinion. She is convincing as a former surgeon turned sobriety companion. She is believable as an intelligent woman doing a difficult job with a difficult client. Because of the nature of her relationship with Holmes, she is required to pry into his background. She can’t be believable if she doesn’t. But that isn’t the purpose of Watson. Watson is meant to be Holmes’  interface with the rest of us.

Sherlock, on the other hand, gives us a much more traditional take on Holmes and Watson. Martin Freeman’s Watson, by contrast, spends his time explaining  Holmes to the rest of the world, while giving Holmes insight on those niceties that escape the Great Detective. Not the motivations. Those Holmes grasps fully. It is the social mores that escape him, the direct interface between the genius of Holmes and the comparative mediocrity f the rest of the word.  In fact, Sherlock take pains to keep as much of the traditions of Sherlock Holmes as possible, given the temporal shift. If  faithfulness to source material is our sole guide, Sherlock is a clear winner.

At the end of the day, for me, it comes down to this. I enjoy Elementary. It is entertaining, stimulating and fun. On the other hand, the news that Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch are currently too busy to film the next season of  Sherlock sends shock waves through me. I am slavering to see what comes next, and their careers and other projects be damned.

Welcome to the Jungle

They’re making a new Tarzan movie.

I have mixed emotions about that. When my grandfather made that fateful pronouncement that cost him so much money one of the series I went hunting for was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels. It took me a few years to collect all 24 of them, and re- reading them occupied many hours of my childhood. My first impression of jungles came from  the rich descriptions of Burroughs. The mysteries of his Dark Continent kept me forever fascinated. But all of that paled before the excellence of the Ape-man himself.

Tarzan is perhaps the best example of  the Noble Savage in all of literature. Lost in the jungle as an infant, Tarzan is raised by Great Apes, or Mangani, as they call themselves, creatures caught in that nebulous place between animals and men. Despite this, Tarzan’s essential humanity allows him to rise above his circumstances.  For example, while the most iconic first contact between Tarzan and human civilization is immortalized by the words, “Me Tarzan, You Jane,” in the novel Tarzan of the Apes, it was the Ape-man who first made contact . . . by letter! John Clayton and his wife knew they were expecting when they began their ill fated journey and packed accordingly. Among their belongings were several children’s primer’s and young reader’s books. As a child, while fleeing the abuses of the ape clan that raised him, the young Tarzan took refuge in his parent’s old shelter, and taught himself to read and write. In all the movie translations of Tarzan, I have never seen any that kept that facet of the original novel.

Another facet of Tarzan rarely seen in the movies is the violence. While Tarzan is a noble savage, he is still capable of considerable savagery. The Mangani are an inherently violent species. Leadership passes in trial by combat. In Burroughs’ Africa death lurks behind every tree, blood soaked and visceral, waiting for the unwary to stumble. Predators stalk through the trees, waiting to take the unwary.  Once again, no movie has truly captured this aspect of the Ape-man. It’s an issue skirted around for the benefit of the audience.  While Tarzan is frequently shown to be more clever than his opponents, rarely is he shown to be mightier, or more savage. In the books it is a completely different story. The Ape-man wins many of his battles by overpowering his enemies, and several more by crossing lines a civilized man would never cross.

It comes down to faithfulness. Hollywood is renowned for ignoring their source material in favor of what hey believe their audience wants to see. In the process, they frequently forget who their audience is. It happens in their comic genre adaptations a depressing number of times, although in recent years they’ve gotten better. They’ve done it to Stephen King, numerous times. They’ve done it to Tom Clancy. And they’ve done it to Tarzan more than once. Honestly, you can’t really blame them. They were targeting an audience as young as I was when I began reading the adventures of the Ape-man. (And yes, there is a huge difference between reading about bloody battle and watching it on a big screen.) And as much as I want to see Tarzan introduced to a new generation,( this time without the surfer-dude moves, thank you Disney,) Just once, I wouldn’t mind seeing a version aimed at me, who first met our hero in his original, literary form.  I want to see a Tarzan who triumphs over his adversaries by being more cunning  than the ones he can’t overpower, stronger than the ones he can, and savage enough to surprise either if it gives him an advantage. That’s the Ape-man I grew up with. This time, that’s the one I’d also like to see on film.

%d bloggers like this: