Legend of Tarzan”
Tarzan is one of the stories that captured my imagination as a
child. I wanted to believe
that a human being could have a special relationship with the wild
animals---not necessarily to dominate them, but to communicate and
cooperate. Something about the
ideal harmony of humans with nature. At
the time, I didn’t really think of Tarzan as a superhero---someone
endowed with special powers the rest of us don’t have---but in reality,
his command over the jungle animals does, in fact, put him in the
superhero category. And in
this latest version on the big screen, Alexander Skarsgard certainly looks
the part. He's heavily
chiseled from the weight room, which is ironic, considering he was
supposed to grow up in the wilds. But
then, the most famous Tarzan, Johnny Weismuller, was an Olympic swimmer,
so even without CGI, there’s
still a precedence of the superhuman.
And there’s also precedence of a Jane who is a looker, but little
else. Margo Robbie is
essentially wasted in this role, because she’s mostly eye candy; a
helpless damsel in distress, waiting for her Tarzan to rescue her—while
she whines, wines and dines on a steamboat with the bad guy?
Christoph Waltz is an excellent villain----in that
slimy-sophisticated mode that he plays so well.
In this story, set in The Congo at the turn of the 20th
century. Leon Rom was actually an historical figure---an agent of King
Leopold II of Belgium, who was determined to mine the minerals in the area
by exploiting the natives. Yes,
the reports of genocide are truly sobering.
So it’s tempting to try to re-write history a bit, introducing a
hero who could actually thwart the slave trading and the economic
What’s not historically accurate is to insert an American
diplomat commissioned by President Benjamin Harrison to investigate the
matter, but it is a good vehicle to cast the venerable and revered Samuel
L. Jackson in this movie. It’s not very realistic that he could actually
keep up with Tarzan in the jungle, even if Tarzan, as the Earl of
Greystoke, had in fact, returned to England for a while to run his
Tarzan’s story is told in a series of flashbacks; how he was
somehow adopted by the very gorillas who killed his parents.
But as a boy growing up in the jungle, Tarzan not only was attuned
to the other animals, he found he could communicate with them.
So when Tarzan returns, we find him greeting his old friends the
lions, and the elephants. And
at the end, he can command whole thundering herds to do his bidding.
But, he still must go back and do some mano-a-mano with his
“brother ape” to establish alpha dominance, and at least we aren’t
too unrealistic about how that combat would resolve.
The CGI usage is spectacular, and the story, though stretching
credulity in places, still has a clear and despicable enemy, and a strong
and resilient hero. Tarzan