Column By Steve Bennett
Posted by Steve Bennett on September 4, 2019 @ 7:36 pm CT
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote how the lead character from the upcoming movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings came out of 70s Kung Fu comics (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy - A Resumption Of Kung Fu Fighting). This time I have another neglected genre in mind. It's Marvel's 80th anniversary, and along with a special edition of Marvel Comics #1 this year, Marvel has been doing a series of one-shots featuring some of their lesser-known characters and genres. These have included Journey Into Unknown Worlds, Crypt of Shadows, War Is Hell, The Gunhawks, Love Romances, and Ziggy Pig - Silly Seal Comics, all of which were collected in June in the trade paperback Marvel Comics: Timeless Tales.
'Godzilla: King Of The Monsters' Is A Terrifying Box Office Disappointment. But there’s still the revenue from streaming and home video to consider and a lot will depend on how well next year’s Godzilla Vs. Kong does. Here’s hoping it does do well because I really want to see a (preferably animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse style) movie where Kid Kaiju teams up with Red Ronin and It the Living Colossus against. an all-out monster invasion from Planet X.)
Which is kind of odd, considering how popular jungle movies are. I’ve always thought of the jungle genre as being passe, a relic of the previous century, but then I began to realize how many successful movies qualify as jungle adventure movies. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing The Stone, Congo, Predator, Anaconda, King Kong, Kong: Skull Island and all of the Tomb Raider movies. And I wouldn’t have thought of either Jurassic Park or Lost World: Jurassic Park as being jungle movies’, but both are on "The Best Adventure Movies That Take Place in the Jungle" list on Ranker. They also seem to be surprisingly popular with younger audiences too, given the recent success of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (a sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, is coming this December), Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie, and the surprise critical hit Dora And The Lost City Of Gold.
In comic books, "jungle" has always pretty much exclusively meant Tarzan rip-offs like Ka-Zar which isn't meant as either an insult or accusation; every comic book publisher usually had one if not many clones of the character. It's understandable given how popular he once was. Author Harlan Ellison once famously said that "there are only five fictional characters known to every man, woman, and child on the planet, Mickey Mouse, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Robin Hood... and Superman."
2016's The Legend of Tarzan had a $180 million production budget and made $356.7 million, which apparently wasn't good enough to justify a sequel. That is a shame as it was a very good Tarzan movie. The producers did a fine job modernizing the material for today’s audiences. Alexander Skarsgård may have been the best Tarzan on the Silver Screen yet, and Margot Robbie made an even better Jane. But, it was generally thought that the property came with too much baggage, and Tarzan was too intrinsically dated to be a big popular success. Critics and film producers giving credence to the idea that the problem with The Legend of Tarzan was Tarzan is the reason why another story about someone raised by animals came out that year, Jon Favreau's live-action Jungle Book, which cost $175 million and made $966 million.
Which circles me back to the latest jungle movie, Dora And The Lost City of Gold. Along with the reviews being almost overwhelmingly positive, most critics seemed to be startled by how well it updated all of the standard jungle movie tropes and cliches. A reaction probably best summed up by the headline of the review by Libby Emmons which appeared in The Federalist (of all places), ‘Dora And The Lost City of Gold’ Could Have Been Way Worse.
Simmons makes the case Dora isn’t a "jungle" movie but rather an “archaeology movie” like Raiders of the Lost Ark seeing as how it “has all the elements of a great archaeology movie: impromptu water slides, ancient aqueducts, symbols, confusing trails, booby traps, and quicksand.” I find that term a bit of a stretch, especially when she declares The Goonies one as well. As final thought, I suggest it would be interesting if Marvel tried to make jungle comics that were more like jungle movies, and less like the way jungle comics have been done so far.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.