Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How I would rewrite The Legend of Tarzan

As a number of people have said, The Legend of Tarzan is an enjoyable movie that doesn't succeed in overcoming its white savior proposition, and perhaps because that's so noticeable, no one I've noticed has said that it also doesn't succeed in overcoming its sexist girl-as-hostage plot. I was inclined to skip the movie until I read The Legend of Tarzan (2016) | Steven Barnes, and after seeing it, I generally agree with his take.

So what would I do differently?

One minor spoiler follows.

But first, three problems that go into my revision:

Jane is generally stuck in the hostage role when she should've been consistently awesome. She's someone who grew up in Africa, and she's lived with Tarzan for some time. While she should not be his equal in the jungle, she should be his superior in some ways—like being a crack shot and a cooler head when making plans.

Making George Washington Williams able to keep up with Tarzan is wrong—Tarzan should not wait for anyone, and no one should be able to keep up with him in the jungle.

None of the African characters have enough time onscreen to become more than supporting cast.

So my first change is one I never expected to propose regarding an adventure film: Jane and Tarzan need a child who can take over the hostage role.

Which means:

Initially, Tarzan charges off alone to make the rescue. Jane, Williams, and the chief's son or daughter (who refuses to stay behind because of a need for revenge) set off in pursuit, perhaps with a few supporting characters.

Tarzan is slowed down when he fights Akut, his ape brother. Jane, Williams, and the Chief's Kid catch up. In classic film fashion, this becomes the Assemble the Squad moment: two white characters, two black characters, and an ape unite to defeat Rom.

The tactical leader is Williams; he's both the oldest and the one with military experience. The final assault is co-ordinated by him, and all five get to do Cool Stuff. The Chief's Kid kills whoever killed the chief, Jane and Williams free the hostage, and Tarzan defeats Rom.

Ah, well. I enjoyed the movie, and Emma may've enjoyed it even more than I did. The scenery's gorgeous. I would've liked less CG action, but I'm not complaining about that. Will-Bob gives it a solid B, and maybe a B+.