Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan ~ Don't tell him this, I don't want him to get a swollen head, but my big brother rocks. Even before he saved my life by giving me one of his kidneys, I always looked up to him. As his ten years junior little brother, I wanted to be like him, and what he thought was cool, I wanted to think was cool too. I've mentioned numerous times in my writing that my love of the Flash comes from him, and a recent interview with Joe DeVito reminded me of how I watched King Kong because of the big bro too. And then there's Tarzan.

My big brother also made me watch Tarzan by his enthusiasm for it. I remember very distinctly being sat down on a Saturday afternoon to watch 'the one where Tarzan goes to New York to save Boy.' The film in question was Tarzan's New York Adventure with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, and for me, it was awesome. A new world had been opened up to me. From there I discovered Tarzan books and Tarzan comics (both of which were the best), the TV series with Ron Ely, and whenever one of the Weissmuller flicks showed, I was right there in front of the boob tube.

I loved the movies, and the TV show was okay, but I really grooved on the real Tarzan, the one from the books, and to some extent the comics. I knew he was a lot smarter than Weissmuller in the movies, a noble savage, a clever warrior, and an intelligent opponent. And I loved all the lost cities and fantasy elements, which led to my appreciation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other awesomeness like Pellucidar and John Carter of Mars.

Because of this knowledge of what Tarzan was all about from the books, that he wasn't all yells and "me Tarzan, you Jane," I had rarely been truly happy with many cinematic versions. Casper Van Dien came close in Tarzan and the Lost City, but of course, no matter how you measure it, it's still a Casper Van Dien movie. I wondered if we'd ever get a Tarzan movie again, let alone a good one, and then came The Legend of Tarzan.

I had only heard whispers about it while it was being made, but had heard it was quite good. When I first saw the trailer, I was excited, and then I saw who was playing Tarzan, and my heart fell. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Alexander Skarsgard, in fact, I'm a fan. His Eric Northman in "True Blood" was consistently one of the best things about the series, even when it was at its worst.

My great fear was that every time I looked at his Tarzan, I would see Eric. This is one of the reasons why studios usually look for unknowns when casting serial protagonists. I shouldn’t have worried though, from the moment we see Skarsgard on the screen, from the moment I saw him, I saw Tarzan. He is stunning in the role. Alexander Skarsgard is Tarzan. A man of few words, much action, and a caring hero, Skarsgard brings the king of the jungle to life in a way we've not seen in quite some time.

As Jane, and in previous films, Margot Robbie continues to impress me as an actress. Her Jane Porter Clayton is tough, takes no nonsense, and is yet still believable as a turn of the century woman of stature. Christoph Waltz overacts like a madman as the baddie, and it works, much better than his attempt at villainy in the James Bond franchise. He has shown that he can be evil in both a subtle and a manic mode. Samuel L. Jackson brings the humor and his contrast to Tarzan is one of the better aspects of the flick. I wish he'd been more however.

I'm not going to harp on or bring up the racism of the Tarzan stories (in that only a white man save Africa, etc.), there are much better men than me that can handle that, but I will note that the story of the movie takes place in a very dangerous era of the Congo, a time of massacre and genocide, and I wish the character would have stayed in the fantasy realm. Furthermore, I have to express distaste in the choice of Jackson's role, especially if he was going to be used for comic relief.

Samuel l. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, a real historical figure. He was a human rights activist who very specifically attacked King Leopold for his actions in the Congo. In my mind, especially played by an actor of Samuel L. Jackson's skills, I wish they'd gone with a more accurate portrayal of the man, rather than just comic relief/sidekick status.

That aside, I really loved this flick, and was grinning ear to ear throughout most of it. I can't wait for sequels. I enjoyed this almost as much as Captain America: Civil War, recommended.

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