Directed by David Yates. Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson.
THE PLOT: It has been many years since Tarzan, now known as John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård), left Africa to be with his one true love Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), but they are drawn back to the land where they met by a plot by the Emissary of the Belgian King Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). Ostensibly, Tarzan is in Africa to investigate claims of slavery by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), but when Jane is kidnapped by Rom and his mercenaries, Tarzan knows that there is a lot more going on in this land that he loves.
THE VERDICT: The last live-action story with Tarzan at its heart was 1998’s ‘Tarzan and the Lost City’, and Tarzan last appeared on the big screen in the ill-fated mo-cap mess ‘Tarzan 3D’ with Kellan Lutz in the lead role. There has always been a fascination with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous character, and this new outing sees the Lord of the Jungle return home to save the natives from the white man.
Alexander Skarsgård leads the cast as the lord of the jungle, and does fine in the role, backed up by Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz and Djimon Hounsou. The trouble is that Skarsgård, like the rest of the cast, is up against some pretty tough obstacles in making the characters feel rounded and real. Christoph Waltz sadly never gets a chance to be anything other than the charming villain we have seen him play a million times, and while he does this well, it feels very repetitive and familiar. Margot Robbie does OK as Jane Porter; the actress tries her best not to make the character a damsel in distress, but is fighting against a script that keeps putting her in situations where she needs to be rescued. Samuel L. Jackson brings some levity to proceedings, but these attempts often feel out of place and don’t always work. Djimon Hounsou fares the best out of the central cast, making Chief Mbonga graceful and intimidating.
Screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer picked up where Burroughs left off, placing a Westernised Tarzan back in the world he grew up in. There are issues with this from the start, but the most glaring is the fact that the African natives need a white man to save them from the Westerners. This is more than a little problematic, patronising and awkward, and sets the tone for much of the film. The dialogue for the film is uninspired but gets the job done, and there are times when the film jumps through time with no warning, leaving the audience wondering just what the heck is going on.
‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is director David Yates’ first big screen outing since the final ‘Harry Potter’ film five years ago, and although there are moments where the film works, it is clear that the film struggles with the copious use of – often shoddy – CGI, and trying to make the characters feel fresh and new when they are so well known to audiences. The action sequences – CGI aside – are fine, although many of them feel disjointed and don’t make a huge amount of sense.
In all, perhaps ignoring the plot and enjoying Skarsgård shirtless is the way to go for ‘The Legend of Tarzan’, as the dialogue is thin, the plot is jumpy, the CGI is often laughably bad and the jokes – such as they are – don’t land.
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    This reviewer grew up on the old Hollywood Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, as well as the alternative origin story, 1984’s Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, The Lord Of The Apes. A new take on the 104-year-old story from Edgar Rice Burroughs is a mouth-watering prospect for anyone revisiting a nostalgic childhood hero. But can The Legend Of Tarzan still find a way to make the heroic Tarzan swing with pride for a new generation?

    With only brief flashbacks to his origin in the jungles of Congo, we now find Tarzan, or John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard) living the life of a lord and gentleman in Greystoke Manor in Victorian England. Along with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie), they’re quite happy to live a civilised life. But he remembers the jungle and the animals he grew up with when American explorer George (Samuel L. Jackson) comes calling. An envoy of King Leopold of Belgium is stirring things up in the Congo. Leon (Christoph Waltz) wants the land, the diamonds, the natural resources for Belgium and is willing to take it at whatever cost, up to including slavery. He also has another motivation: Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) has vengeance on his mind and wants to draw Tarzan out. Sensing a trap, Tarzan goes after Leon when he kidnaps Jane…

    The answer as to whether Tarzan is still relevant to the Facebook and Harry Potter generation is a reasonably solid yes. Director David Yates, himself a veteran of the later Harry Potter films, has found a way to bring Tarzan into the 21st Century while still rooting him in the heroic simplicity of Burroughs’ books. The story, by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, is a return-to-roots story which mixes in the moral complexities of colonialism and slavery, along with how we treat the animal world and the environment. There has to be a message for modern audiences of course, otherwise it would be too rooted in a different time – which would be fatal. That’s a small price to pay for what is ultimately a thoroughly rousing adventure.

    Yates, filming mostly on a very realistic soundstage in the UK, has created a lush jungle adventure with lots of derring-do and dastardly plotting from complex, cruel villains (watch Leon snap at Jane over a tense dinner scene). Waltz brings an added layer of dangerous charm to his villain, while Robbie makes an ideal Jane – not the damsel in distress, but able to save herself when needed. As to Skarsgard, he acquits himself well in the role. Bulking up on a 7,000-calorie a day diet, he certainly looks the part and brings out that inner conflict between the man of polite society and the man of the jungle, without it feeling forced.

    The plot mechanics are predictable though, so you can pretty much see where it’s going from early on. More throwaway laughs or one-liners wouldn’t have gone amiss either. However, being swept along for the ride is part of its winning charm. A sequel wouldn’t be unwelcome, as The Legend Of Tarzan gets the story off to a good start. ***

  • emerb

    The King of the Jungle returns in “The Legend Of Tarzan”, a high-energy, big-budget new spin on the original Tarzan story. An old school historical action adventure, it features Alexander Skarsgard in the title role, alongside Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, in this handsome but highly digitalized new take on the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic. The story of Tarzan has been told numerous times so taking on the challenge was never going to be easy but this particularly lavish vision was conceived by director David Yates, who made the final four Harry Potter films so he has some experience to say the least! After the creative and financial flop of numerous recent big-budget franchise films (“Independence Day: Resurgence” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” spring to mind), I actually thought this film was pretty good and I reckon it will bring a nice boost to box office returns this summer.

    The film joins Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) years after marrying Jane (Margot Robbie) and moving to London, leaving the jungle behind. Flashbacks refer to his eventful past whereby his parents were shipwrecked in Africa and eventually killed in the jungle where apes would raise him. Twenty years later, his life is very different, he is now grown up, civilised and impeccably dressed. He has reclaimed his identity as the English aristocrat Lord John Clayton III, heir to the
    estate left by his grandfather, the sixth Earl of Greystoke. Understandably he is not eager to fulfil a request from the English government on behalf of the King of the Belgians to revisit the Congo to see the many works and engineering projects in the colony. But George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) convinces him to make the trip to investigate his suspicions of slavery. So he returns with a reluctant Jane in tow in order to save the natives from exploitation and also a genocide masterminded by the evil and greedy Belgian villain Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who plunders their diamond supply. This vast cache of jewels is guarded by a tribe whose chief (Djimon Hounsou) has a lifelong grudge against Tarzan and he promises Rom the haul on one condition: that he brings back Tarzan for the tribe to torture and kill. Once they arrive, they are set upon by Rom and his mercenaries and the story kicks into gear.

    Director Yates is highly imaginative and in particular, I enjoyed the very strong action sequence for the climax with some impressive Tarzan acrobatics and animal stampedes. In fact, there are numerous lovely moments involving animals – lions, primates, water buffalo, elephants, crocs and more, all of which were computer generated, yet superbly and realistically done. The filmmakers spent six weeks in fabulous and diverse locations in Gabon and there are extensive scenes shot in gloriously picturesque and magical surroundings. As Tarzan, Skarsgard is fairly unremarkable and his portrayal of the character is rather one-note and bland. Physically, he fits the bill – he is striking, tall and lithe but emotionally he remains remote and uninvolving. Having said that, the chemistry between the two leads is good, but the love story isn’t really developed, it’s more about the action. The best performances come from Christoph as the colonial villain (an envoy of the Belgian King Leopold) complete with his smarmy smile and villainous eyes, and Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams, the real-life critic of Belgian imperialism in the Congo. In fact, the movie is packed with stars and we also get a spirited and plausible turn from Margot Robbie, an independent, self-sufficient leading lady, she’s certainly no whimpering damsel in distress. I’m glad to see that Robbie seems to be on the up lately, having filmed this in between “Focus” and “Suicide Squad”, she seems to be in demand. Djimon Hounsou plays the vengeful Chief Mbonga and he is excellent too, his intensity and emotion is scene-stealing. “Legend Of Tarzan” is great fun to watch, it’s exciting and likable and it achieves what the film makers clearly
    set out to do – create a sweeping adventure with lots of animal attacks, jungle chases and numerous flashbacks to explain Tarzan’s complicated backstory – you won’t regret buying a ticket.

  • Clive Bower

    Tarzan . Took far too long to get going for my liking . First hour for me was all over the place but ended strongly . The picture as a whole was poor which was a shame as I was really looking forward to it with the actors on board .

  • Sasha Kinch

    Initially, I felt that the screenwriters were trying to achieve a lot – create plausible characters, have a compelling storyline, include realistic historic data AND include the romantic elements. It felt clunky as a result, and took a while to get going.

    Despite that, the cinematography is dramatic and beautiful, and if you watch it with the belief that it is ultimately a fantasy film despite it’s desire to be realistic, then you can relax and enjoy it for what it is.