Time Magazine calls Tarzan "Revisionist, Anachronistic, Weird and Beautiful" while a headline in The New Yorker asserts "Tarzan Cannot Be Rebooted." Director David Yates, however, disagreed in an interview published in the LA Times. "This is a modern film with modern sensibilities," he insists. The shadow of racism can't be dismissed when it comes to a story about a white man raised by apes in Africa and then returned to "civilization" in Europe. Ostensibly conscious of the problematic nature of the story, producers and the creative team made what The New Yorker calls an "earnest effort" to address those concerns.

'Tarzan' – history and the movie

The Tarzan story is set in the 1880's at the height of Victorian England.

In reality, as in the story, King Leopold of Belgium essentially annexed what is modern-day Congo as a private business in ivory and more importantly, rubber. The Belgian regime committed unspeakable acts of cruelty against the African population, including kidnapping the women of a village to force the men to work, and chopping off the hands of the children of enslaved workers who didn't produce enough wild rubber during a long work day. It's a very dark chapter in the dark history of slavery.

The film casts Alexander Skarsgård in the title role. The story does accurately cast Britain as friendly to Belgian interests. From there, it spins into the familiar story of the man raised by apes and then brought to live in London as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. He is called to a meeting with the British Prime Minister and asked to travel to the Congo as a guest of the Belgians.

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Enter Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams, an American diplomat. Through Williams, Tarzan learns of the viciously racist nature of the Belgian regime in the Congo and they set out to take them down.

'Tarzan' – the reality

Jackson's George Washington Williams was a real life character, an ex-Civil War soldier who wrote the first piece that brought the savage racism of what was happening in the Congo to the public eye. In reality however, at the time all of the European states and the US agreed to hand over control of the Congo to King Leopold's private business interests. What is now the Democratic Republic of Congo was under Belgian rule until 1960.

While Tarzan, Jane (played by Margot Robbie) and his friends set about saving themselves and the natives of Congos, the African characters are universally gentle and smiling; there is no attempt to depict their society in any kind of realistic complexity. Does the world really need another story about white people saving Africans from the hideous cruelty of white people? When it comes to a story with such fundamental overtones of racism, the problem is not even so much the story, but the story teller.

Perhaps, instead of white stories about Africa, the world is finally ready for authentic stories about Africans, by Africans. According to the LA Times, Tarzan is only expected to earn about $35 million on its July 4 opening weekend.