BnB Shame #3: The Legend of Tarzan

Ever thought about putting your house up for and AirBnB? If so, did you ever give a thought to the judgment potential renters might give you from your DVD collection? You don’t know how it got there. Maybe it was a gift. Maybe you got it at a 3 for $5 sale at Wal-Mart. Or, perhaps worst of all, maybe you actually like it. Welcome to “BnB Shame”.

Exhibit A:

The Legend of Tarzan

Why make it:

Kids love Tarzan, right?

I mean, it was just about the first superstar movie franchise ever.  The first ever Tarzan movie was a silent film that debuted in 1918.  Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood by starring in 12 Tarzan films.  Everyone from Buster Crabbe, Christopher Lambert, Miles O’Keefe, and Casper Van Dien has stepped into the role.  Even Disney took a shot.  But what’s the appeal?

Well… it’s you chance to see a hot buff dude wearing nothing but a loincloth.  Or slacks, in the case of this movie.  Can’t rosk having kids see them muscular thighs in this day and age!  But still… those abs.  Which this time are attached to one Alexander Skarsgard.

Seriously, look at them abs.  You can grate cheese on ’em.

Woke Tarzan:

Of course, we run into a problem in 2016. The very concept of Tarzan? It’s kinda racist. A white man is lost in the jungle, is raised by apes, and becomes king of all the animals. And is sometimes king of the natives, too. Tarzan’s clipped speech can be interpreted as, “This is how we think foreigners sound like when they try English.” By the way, I’m assuming all these years, a kid of African descent probably wandered in the woods. The ape people didn’t think to raise any of the lost local children, hmmm?

Anyway, Tarzan isn’t going to be racist anymore because we are going to pair him up with George Washington Williams… played by Sam Jackson! Williams is a real life American veteran and politician who traveled to Congo, saw the suffering, and sparked public outcry against the Belgian regime’s management of the state. This immediately makes Tarzan an anti-racist! That’s good, right? It’s OK for a white man to go to Africa and boss African people around now! And he’s fighting the real life Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who really ran a brutal regime in the Congo.

Though we don’t really see that happening here. The worse he does in accept diamonds from Chief Mbonga (Djimon Honsou), who only wants to kill Tarzan. Tarzan implies that Rom is eventually going to take Mbonga’s land forcefully away to get at the diamonds — and he very well might! — but for all we see in the movie it seems like a legitimate business transaction.

Frankly, the whole movie makes the situation more convoluted than it needs to be, when all they had to do was say that Belgium was mistreating the locals. But you want to give the real life country of Belgium a chance at plausible deniability, dontcha?

Fakey animals:

Computer animation has progressed to the point where you don’t really have to abuse or endanger animals anymore.  So that means no trained elephants.  Hooray! But they don’t look that real. Neither do all the animals who stampede town during the film’s climax in a scene where the CGI is only marginally better than a similar one from Jumanji.

The original Jumanji.

The worst CGI is probably when Tarzan is swinging on the vines with a team of African friends to catch a train. That scene took me way out of the film. First off: I always considered vine-swinging to be a Tarzan superpower, but now apparently everyone can do it.

Secondly: are you telling me that the Belgian envoys didn’t employ slash and burn techniques when building their railroad? How is it the vines are so close to the track? Heck… where are those vines attached to? I don’t think there were tree branches located directly above the track. Somehow there are both vines suspended above the track and they can match the train’s speed?

The real reason to watch:

Djimon Hounsou wearing a kitty outfit.

Look at that! It’s glorious! Mbonga is the king of Opar, which is basically the secret city in the Tarzan books that I imagine Wakanda was based on. We never see it in the movie, which is a shame. Burroughs mentions that it’s a lost colony of Atlantis located in the deepest jungles with riches stockpied throught he ages. Burroughs also said that they were half ape, and the females appear as sexy white ladies and the males are apelike brutes. Go ahead and ignore that part, producers.

The kitty outfit is a good compromise. (Though the recent Black Panther movie has made it OK for people of African decent to wear gorilla outfits again.)

Surprisingly there are plenty of reasons to watch. I liked Margot Robbie as Jane Porter. I also liked an early scene where Tarzan grabs a cuppa tea and his giant meaty fingers curl around the handle like an ape’s. I like Tarzan’s affectionate relationship with his ape mom.

And I enjoyed the Tarzan yell. For a while there, this looked to be the sort of movie that wanted to be taken super-seriously, and the yell would be just too campy to do. But we hear it!

We see it coming out of his mouth though. Rom hears the yell from a long distance. Actually seeing Alexander Skarsgard doing a full-throated Tarzan yell is just too silly for our movie where a little boy was raised by apes!

Potential BnB renter assessment:

Renters will take this off the shelf, turn it around in their hands, and go, “They made another Tarzan movie? And Harley Quinn was in it?”

For the record, I actually did enjoy this. My wife is a much bigger Tarzan fan, and this is her favorite Tarzan movie. It helps that Tarzan can speak perfect English, and the changes made to make Tarzan be less racist do help. While it did pretty well overseas (but not spectacularly well), there don’t seem to be any plans for a sequel. This is probably the last Tarzan film we’ll get for a while.

Also: wouldn’t you know it? I only have maybe 7 DVD’s in Ultra HD format. Most of them are superhero movies (including… Justice League). This is the only one that isn’t.

Though I’ll probably be judged far more harshly for Justice League.