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Friday, July 01, 2016

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016)

Alexander Skarsgard as the latest live-action iteration of Edgar Rice Burroughs's feral hero.

Sorry, folks, but this will be a bit of a rant rather than a straight review.

Earlier this afternoon I saw THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) and had a pretty good time with it, though, speaking as a lifelong Tarzan booster, the film is in no way without its faults. It's the latest attempt to make the Lord of the Jungle appeal to modern sensibilities and it certainly has a hell of a lot more action/adventure than the turgid GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN OF THE APES (1984), but would somebody please explain to me when it became verboten for Tarzan to wield a knife, a spear, or even a bow and arrows? (Plus to say nothing of the fact that he doesn't rock his signature loincloth until the very end of the movie.)

And as for all of the concern about Tarzan being a white man's fantasy of a Caucasian hero of colonialist values being out of step with more enlightened attitudes that have come to pass during the character's 115-year existence and therefore an offensive figure to people of color, specifically black people, I loudly and adamantly call "bullshit." Black people have enjoyed Tarzan as a hero since he first appeared on the big screen, not just because he's fucking awesome but also because his attitude toward native Africans was astoundingly liberal for its era. It was as simple as "Don't fuck with him, his woman, the jungle, or his friends — human or otherwise — and he only sees you as a person," perhaps someone soon to be a new friend and possibly someone worthy of his respect as an equal. The Negroes Tarzan killed in films of yore were all cannibals, kidnappers, desecrators of nature, or miscreants of some vile stripe, and each and every one of them that he dispatched had it coming.

It should also be noted that the loudest detractors of Tarzan as a racist trope in the 2000's are mostly Social Justice Warrior-types who have, from what their discussion of the character and his oeuvre betrays, never read a Tarzan novel nor seen a Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie, instead making ill-founded and utterly ignorant proclamations from out of their whiny asses. Black folks of the generations that preceded mine "got" what Tarzan was about — man in perfect, savage harmony with nature — and thrilled to his adventures, and the audience I saw the film with this afternoon was a reasonably-packed house composed of nothing but Hispanics and fellow highly-rhythmic individuals, all of whom dug the film to varying degrees, with three very turned-on middle-aged females predicting it will be a hit. (Presumably because of Tarzan being an unashamedly handsome and rugged shirtless bohunk with an eight-pack.)

Bottom Line: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN was a lot of fun — but, again, not without flaws — and I predict it will make its mark as a popular date movie, eventually to join the home video collections of Tarzan-boosters like myself and those who will want to make return trips to this beautifully-lensed romantic adventure.

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