Wednesday 29 June 2016

The Legend of Tarzan ... Swinging by a thread

AT first glance, director David Yates's live action film The Legend of Tarzan is about a beautiful blonde
and her studly husband going through the pains of a miscarriage.
  A deeper look, however, reveals its roots to Dancing With Wolves, The Last Samurai and Avatar. All the films are about a white man assimilating with a local culture and helping the natives ward off attacks from heavily-armed soldiers.
  And what is Hollywood's fascination with films about the kidnap of a woman to lure the hero? The heroine in Spectre was feisty and knew how to handle a gun, but she still suffered the same fate as most film heroines, and had to wait for the arrival of James Bond to save her.
  Helpless women are need in films to provide an avenue for tough-talking men to break down obstacles and break the bones of baddies to show off their masculinity.
   The aforementioned Tarzan/Lord Greystoke/John Clayton (Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard) may look impressive with his chiselled torso, towering height and flowing blond locks, but he lacks the gravitas to exhibit animal magnetism. 
   His expression rarely deviates from being solemn and he hardly says much, compared with sexy and
Tarzan goes ape in the film. 
spunky wife Jane (Margot Robbie) and nemesis Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz, playing a baddie for the umpteenth time). 
   I can partly attribute it to him being raised by gorillas in the mist, but I have feeling that him speaking wouldn't have helped the film much.
  It's 1895, and John and Jane are ensconced in grey and dreary London. The wife's just had a miscarriage and there is mild tension between them. 
    A plea by black sharpshooting American  George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) to investigate a mining camp in the African Congo sends both of them scurrying back to the country they once called home.
   Rom is Belgian King Leopold's envoy to the nation, and he wants to abduct the lord of the jungle and hand him on a silver platter to chieftain Mbonga (Djimon Honsou), who will give Rom gems to pay for mercenaries to tighten the king's grip on the mineral-rich nation.
  John and Jane are shown to be respected and at ease with tribal people and culture. But Rom knows that the way to a man's gut is by kidnapping his woman (Waltz played a baddie who kidnapped Bond's girlfriend in Spectre ).
   White Europeans are shown to be the heartless, merciless and greedy people that they are, but it's disingenuous of the film to include black actor Jackson as the representative of truth-seeking Americans. 
   Films like to portray the US as the paragon of liberty and justice, but I believe Tarzan's filmmakers knew that having a white American decrying white Europeans' violence and fondness for black slaves would have been too much to be believable.
Tarzan's treasured chest offers comfort to Jane. 
   So they opted for a black American, thus making the character more palatable and less hypocritical to viewers. 
   After Jane is abducted, the film gets predicable. Viewers know John will shed his clothes (he keeps his pants and doesn't wear a loincloth) to become Tarzan in his pursuit of Rom, and lead the natives in the battle against the oppressive colonialists. 
   Jane is feisty and doesn't cower in fear when facing baddies. For example, when forced to have dinner with Rom, she looks for ways to get back at him. 
  Rom is the usual white baddie terribly out of place in a hot and humid foreign country. White people who insist on wearing a white suit and tie in the tropics are often shown to be out of touch with local conditions, and their fate is pretty straightforward.
   Waltz excels in playing chilling baddies, but he's not even his garrulous self in this film. 
   Tarzan is whites' atonement for the sins they committed against black, brown and yellow-skinned people during the colonial days.
   However, The Legend of Tarzan is a crime against viewers.

2 out of 5 stars

Tarzan lets his body to the talking. 

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