Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan: the Good, the Bad, the SJW

I went with a friend to watch Legend of Tarzan yesterday, with hopes that it would get more right than other recent films(John Carter) adapting great pulp adventure stories. Well, here's how it went. There will be some spoilers, so you may wish to skip towards the end.

The Good
 Tarzan is definitely well portrayed, showing his civilized part and his wild part equally well. Jane, while a "damsel in distress", is not weak, and has great faith in her husband. "An ordinary man will do the impossible for the woman he loves. My husband is no ordinary man."   All the while, she is trying to escape, and gets thwarted by her captor twice, even escaping for awhile once. The action throughout was solid, and the Belgians were pretty terrible colonialists.  CGI animals actually looked rather good, and the "mating  call" bit was funny.   The love scene was one of the most tasteful I've seen, with a cut before things really start happening, and coming back after, when they're in the sheets.

The Bad
I don't recall Tarzan's mother being killed. Maybe I'm wrong. Nor do I recall Tarzan having a brother ape; all the other apes hated him.  The Claytons' jungle home was not in the trees from my recollection; perhaps a bit off the ground, but not a treehouse.  Jane did NOT grow up in Africa; her father was an American scientist well in over his head.

There are three religions presented in Legend of Tarzan: earth-worship, scientism, and Catholicism. Of course, Hollywood being what it is, Catholicism is ONLY presented as being practiced by the bad guy. The story of said villain being gifted his rosary by his priest being followed immediately by an unsubtle pedophilia joke, which the Catholic Church did not have in prevalence at that time.  While Catholicism was indeed the dominant church in Belgium, not one of the Englishmen, nor the American, is presented as having faith of any sort.  Mr. Burroughs, while not believing, would not be insulting to people of faith, and would include them in his stories as sidekicks/aides. Scientism is only briefly presented, with the line, "My father is a scientist, he taught me not to be afraid of superstition." Or something like that.

The Kuba tribe would possibly have banded together against an invading army, but the film makes no mention of their spirit worship, ancestor worship, or witchcraft in their culture. Anthropologically, this is a bit of a sham, not presenting them with a real worldview. ERB did batter, once again; even if he got it wrong, he made a worldview for his characters.

Aside from the characterization of Christianity, I found the movie mostly palatable. This is likely due to the fact that Dark Horse Entertainment had a hand in it.  Thus far, DH has stayed mostly out of the Social Justice in comics movement, and kept producing pretty good stuff.  Is this a perfect Tarzan movie? No, but Tarzan is definitely Tarzan, and not some incompetent.

When you play Social Justice, the world loses.

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