Paul Farren takes another swing at Tarzan.
The naysayers have been out in force with their reviews of the latest attempt to get a Tarzan franchise off the ground. Amongst the negative remarks have been the lack of logic, something Mr. Batman did not get accused of too much to my memory. There’s the use of the tragedy of Belgium’s colonisation of the Congo as a historic backdrop. The tragedy of global terrorism is Captain America’s contemporary backdrop but that’s okay because those bad guys are all wearing colourful costumes and none of the villains have names like Isis Man.
I agree that Tarzan should not really get mixed up in politics (mind you he did go on a Nazi-killing spree in Tarzan Triumphs, which was guilty fun for wartime America I’ll bet), but then he doesn’t really get involved in politics in this film. That’s the job of other characters. All he wants to do is rescue Jane, the woman he loves. Along the way, he inadvertently saves the Congo from a mercenary army. Just like it didn’t happen in real life. Big deal, something similar happened when Tarantino killed Hitler and his upper-echelon Nazis in, Inglorious Basterds, just like it didn’t happen in real life. No one was complaining about that. If anything, this film might provide a little history lesson for those people who only get educated by watching blockbuster movies.
I have been a fan of Tarzan since I could wave a toy knife and jump from sofa to chair, avoiding crocodiles. I could also do a fairly decent Tarzan yodel, might I add. My first Tarzan was Johnny Weissmuller, Mister Weissmuller to you. The stories were pretty straight forward and went like this; all is peaceful in Tarzan’s domain, white hunters come along and stir things up, they are usually after ivory or diamonds. Sometimes these white-people types will be aided by a naive Jane, sometimes their adopted son, Boy. Apparently, the Hays Code-era Tarzan was infertile or was it that he and Jane weren’t married?
Anyway, as I was saying, the hunters come along, upset the status quo, Tarzan nearly gets killed, makes a resounding recovery, saves nearly everyone and restores the status quo. Legend of Tarzan is no different despite some post-modern winks, and nods to the historical tragedy of Belgium’s colonisation of of the Congo. Tarzan swings through trees, check. Fights gorillas, check. Saves the woman he loves from villains, check. Crocodiles have a good meal consisting of villain, check. Tarzan gives villains a good hiding, check.
I went into the cinema with low expectations, I was not sold on the trailers. The CGI animals looked bad, the sombre mood, the Christoph Waltz villain of the week performance, Samuel Jackson looking like he was in ‘show me the money’ mode. I was wrong.
It does have the mark of a film that had a post-production panic, the curse of the flashback, a sense of story elements ending on the cutting-room floor and a rushed, fractured final act. But alongside these flaws are good performances, a solid functioning story that fights the curse of being an origin film better than most and it contains all the elements from the Tarzan checklist above. This is good pulpy fun and not to be confused with reality.
Tarzan is a fantasy figure, a piece of escapism created for us denizens of the concrete jungle. Go and see it. I need another Tarzan movie in the next few years, preferably with dinosaurs and talking apes.
Legend of Tarzan is in cinemas now.