I was watching Tarzan a few days ago. About 20 minutes in, I realized the story sounded… familiar.
I’ll refresh you on the plots of both movies … at the same time. Because “Tarzan” (1999) is “Beauty and the Beast” (1991).
A skinny European brunette
in a yellow dress
is the biggest nerd in Europe
And so is her demented little scientist father. She is a total daddy’s girl.
She and her father are separated in the woods
Where she is chased by a pack of fanged wild animals and into the lair of –
The Beast-Man. He moves, acts, and talks like an animal, lives as an outcast, and has no social skills. He fights off the beasts for her but doesn’t want to talk about it.
But when he talks rudely to her or disrespects her boundaries, she’s very snappy and firm with him.
He quickly becomes fixated on her and tells her to stay.
While she’s with him, she insists she teaches him to be “human” (i.e. European upper-class), teaching him manners, formal wear, physical boundaries, and how to walk without hunching or climbing on things.
But then again, there’s the Chauvinist with a Shotgun. He makes a lot of aggressive statements about manliness and the lack thereof, where “man” means “aggressive,” and non-manly means weak.
He shows his manliness with a low-cut collared V-neck to show off his pecs. Hunting monsters to taxidermy them is his favorite.
He goes out of his way to describe how stupid, mean and ugly the hairy monsters are (meaning the Beast-Man or his friends).
One night, he convinces an angry, ignorant mob to attack the Beast Man and/or his friends. They trudge in with villainous hunched postures, wielding fire and sharp steel.
And since Beast-Man’s friends are the good guys, they win.
But Chauvinist with a Shotgun is intent on killing the Beast-Man. He chases the Beast-Man off alone to dangerous heights, in a rainstorm no less. The Beast-Man doesn’t want to fight or to hurt him, even though he totally could, judging by the…everything about him. The Beast-Man even holds him for a moment near a ledge where he could kill him, but decides on principle to let him off without a scratch.
In the end, Chauvinist is so intent on killing the Beast-Man that he lashes out with his knife… and falls to his own death.
There is thunder.
And in the end, the nerd girl and her quirky father move in to live with the Beast-Man and his eccentric friends, and they live happily ever after.
When we spot a copycat movie, how are we supposed to feel about it? I ask that question because I know there’s more than one answer. Whichever one I say last will probably sound like the right answer, because it’s the last one you’ll read. Feel free to read them out of order, you free spirit you.
- Not Creative. The writers didn’t put as much thought into it. They weren’t able to think outside the box. They didn’t experiment, pioneer, or push new boundaries. To be fair, every genre has its cliches, and people still watch and love the hundredth movie that copies them. But people watch the originals (think Alien, Predator, and Terminator) and remember how they inspired not just that franchise of progressively worse sequels, but inspired themes of countless stories thereafter.
- Safe Pick. Producers and storybuilders make a story they knew people would like to see again. If you want to be liked, and/or make money, this does help. Parents will take their kids to these movies, teenagers will take their dates there, and they don’t have to wonder if they’ll like it, or if it’ll have some dark, pseudo-religious undertones (remember Princess and the Frog? Or All Dogs Go to Heaven?).
- Paying Tribute to the Classics. If a story is similar enough, they can say they did it on purpose. Interstellar looked a lot like 2001: a Space Odyssey. Star Wars 7 was Star Wars 4 in an absurd number of ways. Avatar was Pocahontas, but also was Tarzan (think about it). Because the first one was good, the second one will remind you of it – hopefully in a good way.