The Legend of Tarzan may or may not be doing OK at the box office, but it isn’t a particularly good movie. As noted on the podcast this week by box office idiot savant Watson, characters like Tarzan, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro haven’t done all that well in recent years. Are such properties dead?
Well, not necessarily. As with any movie, put the right person in the director’s chair, and you can have a fine movie that might even get butts into seats. I asked the other Geeks, and Watson made some suggestions, so here are some directors that we think could make some interesting movies using old pulp style heroes.
This one should be fairly obvious. While many directors clearly owe debts to some of their more, shall we say, artier predecessors, like how Brian DePalma clearly admires the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Tarantino’s inspirations come from B-movie grindhouse flicks. That’s more or less the cinematic equivalent of pulp. Heck, his second feature was called Pulp Fiction. Any of Tarantino’s work says he’d be perfect for reviving a forgotten character like a pulp hero.
Tarantino’s good buddy Robert Rodriguez also owes a strong debt to the grindhouse. Starting with his first feature El Mariachi and definitely including Sin City, Rodriguez has the chops to show tough talking people dishing out brutal and occasionally unrealistic violence. But who cares? Pulp’s all about the thrill.
Going in the other direction cinematically speaking, Steven Spielberg would make a great director for a pulp hero. Indiana Jones basically is just such a hero. Spielberg has a craftsmanship to his work, showcasing a very visual storytelling style that he’s been developing for years, and the gosh golly gee whiz side to his work could easily recreate the thrill of the old 40s movie serials. I mean, he’s done it before. He can do it again.
You know who else is basically a pulp hero? Batman. Some of those guys can be downright moody too. Give Nolan something like The Shadow or The Spider and he’ll give you a complex tale of dark intrigue that drops a bomb on you in the closing scenes.
And if you want someone who can do the Nolan thing and be even darker and more intense, while presenting a damn good mystery, go with David Fincher. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl both have strong elements of pulp to them, to say nothing of Se7en or Fight Club.
The Coen Brothers
The Coens bring a unique feel to their films. Even their lesser works are never outright bad. The two care very much for what they do, and it shows. They also seem to love old film styles. The Western was a pulp feature, and imagine what they’d do with the Lone Ranger if it were more like their True Grit and less like, say, The Lone Ranger.
Iron Man gave birth to the MCU. And after The Jungle Book, isn’t there a part of you that wishes Favreau directed Tarzan instead of David Yates?
The Russo Brothers
The Russos, over two Captain America movies, have proven adept at crafting unique action sequences, and a good pulp hero should have those to his or her advantage.
Speaking of Captain America directors, while not a household name, Joe Johnston with both The Rocketeer and Captain America: The First Avenger demonstrated a style that could get 40s action cinema right. He could do a pulp hero easily.
Jenny tossed the Daniels, the two guys who directed Swiss Army Man, into the mix. Not a bad idea. Those guys have certainly demonstrated a good deal of creative weirdness in their career, either with that movie or the various music videos they did that I saw before my Drafthouse screening of Swiss Army Man.
But really, the real key to making a good movie, be it a pulp hero or not, is to have a talented director who truly cares about the material behind the camera. Someone just doing some work-for-hire or an ambitious person without the talent to back it up won’t produce much of anything. Get the talent and the interest, and you have something, and most of the directors on this list have one thing in common: they really, really, really care about the craftsmanship of making movies and making them good.