Me, Alex! Me and me friends fly! Fly, in great metal bird!
Then, plummet! [whistles] Smash ground! Go boom!
Then, here, we emerge. We offer only happiness, and good greetings.
Just the beginning
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa contains many more examples of indigenous people as primitive savages.
Which native? Who cares? They're all the same: primitive, superstitious savages.
Unlike The Lion King, which had no humans, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is firmly set in the modern world. The animals know they're on a game reserve, where they're safe from humans with guns. Alex was raised in New York because humans captured him. We even see a tourist safari led by a black African guide.
With this level of awareness, why would the animals imitate "primitive" African tribes? Where have they even seen these designs--at a tourist shop selling trinkets? Why not imitate Africa's present culture, which includes Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Google, and IBM? Oh, yeah...because Africa is defined by half-naked spearchuckers with bones through their noses.
Tourists go tribal too
If you think about it, this isn't realistic. It's the filmmakers' conceit that going without electricity and running water turns one into a savage. If the filmmakers are able to imagine "primitive" cultures with advanced arts and sciences, it isn't obvious from this movie.
But every animal goes along with the idea. They're ready and willing to throw someone to his death. Why? Because animals and indigenous people are ignorant and emotional. Like children, they're incapable of rational thought.
Volcanic sacrifices are usually associated with the South Seas. So now the movie's "primitive" trope is complete: animals = savages = African tribes = South Seas tribes = American Indian tribes.
What to do instead
Painting African animals with African tribal symbols is an obvious idea. As a filmmaker, it's probably hard to resist. The question is, what's the alternative, if any? Some ideas:
1) A Lion King approach: No human cultural objects or images among the animals.
2) A Mad Max approach: The animals borrow items from a hodgepodge of past and present cultures. This creates a recognizable style but not one tied to a "primitive" African tribe.
3) A sophisticated African approach: The animals borrow words and concepts from a Swahili-based culture. They don't just borrow the tribal designs. In other words, they show some evidence of having a real African culture.
4) An invented tribal culture with no connection to any existing culture.
I don't know which of these would work best. Or if there's another alternative. But equating Africans with witch doctors, rain dances, and human sacrifice is stereotypical.
Despite these complaints, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a fun movie--probably better than the original. The lemurs and penguins steal the scenes they're in. The filmmakers should jettison the hippo and giraffe and their implausible interspecies romance and go with the lion, zebra, lemurs, and penguins.
The CGI effects are nice, as is the satire of The Lion King. The main problem is how the film wraps up the subplots in the last 20 minutes. After the well-executed setup (see trailer), the ending feels rushed and unconvincing.
Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.
For more on the subject, see Tribalism in Dreams from My Father and The Best Indian Movies.