All right I confess. I really wanted Warner’s “The Legend of Tarzan” to bomb. And bomb really badly. And everything about it, before it’s release, looked like it probably would. The trailers were horrible; the reviews have been mixed at best, and it’s Tarzan for Christ’s sake. I mean, how many more of these white supremacist fantasies can we take?
There have been, to date, something like over 200 Tarzan films since the silent film era, and you would think that studio executives would say, enough is enough with the franchise; let’s move on. In the 21st century, how much relevance does Tarzan have? In the first original 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, which started the series, Tarzan himself says: “This is the house of Tarzan, the killer of beasts and many black men.”
You may recall, two years ago, when Harry Belafonte was awarded with an honorary Oscar for his career achievements and humanitarian work, he said in his acceptance speech that Tarzan was the vilest, most racist character in cinematic history, stating eloquently and succinctly what many others felt: “In 1935, at the age of 8, sitting in a Harlem theater, I watched with awe and wonder, incredible feats of the white superhero, Tarzan of the Apes. Tarzan was a sight to see. This porcelain Adonis, this white liberator, who could speak no language, swinging from tree to tree, saving Africa from the tragedy of destruction by a black indigenous population of inept, ignorant, void-of-any-skills, governed by ancient superstitions with no heart for Christian charity… Through this film, the virus of racial inferiority — of never wanting to be identified with anything African — swept into the psyche of its youthful observers. And for the years that followed, Hollywood brought abundant opportunity for black children in their Harlem theaters to cheer Tarzan and boo Africans.”
So who in 2016 wants to see a movie about Tarzan? Yes, sure, in this new film it tried to be all PC as he fights Belgian colonialists; and even co-star Samuel L. Jackson plays a characters based on the real life George Washington Williams who fought against European colonization of Africa, among many other significant accomplishments. But it’s still a Tarzan movie. The guy who has all animals under his control, and who makes every black man tremble in his presence. Who really wants to see that? Especially among black audiences. I can’t imagine any of us rushing out to go see Tarzan. And without black filmgoers, the film was surely destined to suffer at the box office, as I was hoping; that Warner’s gamble would tank this weekend.
And what happened? Turns out that the results aren’t too great. “The Legend of Tarzan” came in second place this weekend with just over $38 million, which is more than what was predicted by some insiders who were predicting that the film wouldn’t do more than $30 million over the three day weekend, and closer to $35-36 million for the four day holiday weekend.
But at $38 million, that isn’t a great start for a film that cost over $180 million to make. WB is going to have to hope that the overseas box office, right now at $18 million so far, will help them recoup their investment. Although I don’t see “Tarzan” playing too well overseas either, considering there likely aren’t going to be a lot of black people rushing out to see this film, wherever they are.
So this brings up a question: Will “The Legend of Tarzan” play well in any country in Africa? I would certainly hope not.
The biggest winner this weekend was the third installment of the unlikeliest movie franchise, “The Purge” – the ultra violent action/horror series that literally came out of nowhere. The latest one, titled “Election Day,” made over $30.8 million, which makes it a box office winner for Universal, since the film cost under $10 million. The fact that it’s become a very successful franchise is even more surprising considering that the basic premise of the films is one of the most illogical and dumbest around, although they’re supposed to be somehow profound.
Number 1 this weekend was, once again, Disney/Pixar’s “Finding Dory.” At $372 million earned so far, it is the second highest grossing film domestically this year, after “Captain America: Civil War.” And with $538 million, the seventh highest grossing film of 2016 to date, worldwide, after Stephen Chow’s Chinese fantasy film “The Mermaid” which has made $553 million.
However, things didn’t shape up to well for Steven Spielberg’s fantasy film “The BFG,” which made only $19 million – not great for a film that reportedly cost $140 million to make. It’s perhaps the kind of film that would’ve worked better in the early 1990s. In 2016, it looks and feels too antiquated and tired to generate any real audience appeal.
1) Finding Dory BV $41,900,542 Total: $372,250,144
2) The Legend of Tarzan WB $38,135,000
3) The Purge: Election Year Uni. $30,870,000
4) The BFG BV $19,584,969
5) Independence Day: Resurgence Fox $16,500,000 Total: $72,657,073
6) Central Intelligence WB (NL) $12,330,000 Total: $91,767,074
7) The Shallows Sony $9,000,000 Total: $35,251,647
8( Free State of Jones STX $4,134,000 Total: $15,199,711
9) The Conjuring 2 WB (NL) $3,850,000 Total: $95,283,538
10) Now You See Me 2 LG/S $2,950,000 Total: $58,689,445
11) Swiss Army Man A24 $1,447,536 Total: $1,601,824
12) Our Kind of Traitor RAtt. $1,001,354