Friday, 21 October 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

Lowdown: Tarzan returns to cure the world from imperialism.
Even my severely limited for contents Netflix account contains multiple versions of the Tarzan story, raising the question of where can a new version - and an obviously large budget one at hand, featuring one of the hottest stars around (Margot Robbie) - fit in. The answer, presented to us by The Legend of Tarzan, is that this Tarzan is a sequel to a prequel that never happened: it takes place after Lord Greystoke was retrieved from the African jungle back to his "home" in England and assumes you know the rough outline of what/who/where Tarzan is. Any references to the original story are made through the occasional flashback.
The story of The Legend of Tarzan revolves around the colonisation of Africa, specifically that of Congo by the Belgiums. Now, if you know your history, you would know that during the late 19th century and up until the early 20th century the Belgiums have committed some of this world's worst atrocities on the local population there, resulting in 6 to 10 million dead and lots of piles of severed hands (the punishment for not producing as much rubber as the Belgiums deemed suitable). In general, the story was that of Western Europeans financial prosperity being generated through the blood of black people in remote Africa.
Rest assured that in this The Legend of Tarzan of ours, the people of Africa are saved from the Belgiums. By a white person, of course, and a noble man at that, with a lovely specimen of ideal white beauty by his side (Robbie) to serve as the movie's token female that requires saving by the alpha male. Given the movie's premises, we also have a black American by their side (Samuel Jackson) to support them, because - as we all know - the blacks of America have won their equality by then and could therefore use their position of privilege to sort inequality problems at the place the whole of humanity had originated from. Just in case you did not pick on my sarcasm yet, I will point out obvious facts such as blacks equality before the law in today's USA or the fact that today's Congo is a garden of Eden devoid of all conflict and/or people being enslaved to dig the precious minerals that make the batteries for the phones and laptops us Westerners are using to read this post at this very second.
I guess the original Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs were far from historically accurate, too, so I shouldn't really complain. But I will complain still, because movies such as The Legend of Tarzan will easily mishaps dozens of millions' impression of what the world was like back then. For people who take their history lessons from Hollywood, the fact that even the most enlightened folk at the time - say, Charles Darwin or H. G. Wells - regarded the likes of blacks and Jews as inferior would come as a complete surprise. If it will ever come.
On the positive side, Legend of Tarzan does feature Christoph Waltz doing yet another baddie, but unlike the last James Bond (Spectre) his talents are not getting wasted.
Overall: All the special effects cannot do this rewriting of history the honours. 2 out of 5 jungle crabs.

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