This is not your typical "Me Tarzan --- You Jane" version of the often told story of a human male infant being raised by apes. David Yates, who directed the final four "Harry Potter" films, is well versed in bringing massive productions to the big screen, and as director of "The Legend of Tarzan", he does not disappoint.
Starring the unbelievably buff --- and handsome --- Alexander Skarsgård as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, a.k.a. Tarzan, and Margot Robbie, the exquisite beauty from "The Wolf of Wall Street", as his cherished wife, Jane, "The Legend of Tarzan" unfolds against the backdrops of 1890's London and the Belgian Congo of Africa. Lord Greystoke is beseeched by the British government and George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), an American humanitarian, to travel back to the Congo to act as an emissary of good will, while seeking evidence of slavery.
The King of Belgium is hemorrhaging money in the Congo, and his most trusted envoy, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), has made a pact with Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou, also looking magnificently in shape) Chief of the Mbolonga tribe of the Opar region. Rom must lure Tarzan to Mbonga in exchange for the diamonds buried in this area needed by the King to further advance his nefarious plans. To ensure his scheme unfolds as planned, Rom kidnaps Jane, knowing Tarzan will do whatever it takes to save her.
Before we get caught up in putting the "hate" on this film, let us remember that it is a fantasy --- and a very popular one --- about a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Yates and his screenwriters, Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, along with the awesome director of photography Henry Braham and Oscar-winning production designer Stuart Craig, have created a marvelous and exciting action adventure for the entire family.
Tarzan's interactions with the animals he grew up with is dynamic and poignant. Whatever your personal feelings about CG may be, let go of it. The fight scene between Tarzan and his ape "brother" Akut is especially breathtaking, utilizing movements by a stuntman in a gorilla suit, then translating into CG. Yates and his team spent a great deal of time and effort to make "The Legend of Tarzan", and I believe it works well.
Let's be clear, Skarsgård is reason enough to see "The Legend of Tarzan". He worked long and hard to hone his physique, and, trust me, it was worth the effort. He is so handsome, but he also possesses another unique ability --- he can act. He was marvelous in "Diary of a Teenage Girl", and as Tarzan, he manages to come across with a distinct sincerity, instead of cartoonish.
And seriously, Robbie is one of the most beautiful actresses working today. She was magnetic as DiCaprio's wife in "The Wolf of Wall Street", and she pulls off the same vibe here. Rom wants Jane to scream for her husband, but she refuses to be a "damsel in distress". She certainly is a gorgeous "tough broad". And the chemistry between her and Skarsgård is palpable --- a lovely, loving couple they make.
Jackson, Waltz and Hounsou all contribute significantly to this movie. Jackson is as good as he was in "The Hateful Eight", providing the sometimes necessary comic relief. He and Skarsgård form a good buddy team, with poor Williams trying to emulate Tarzan's practiced moves.
Waltz, for the first time in a long time, does not overact --- at least not too much. Rom is a nasty guy, which Waltz is so perfect at portraying. But unlike some of his past performances, such as August in "Water for Elepahnts" or Walter Keane in "Big Eyes", Yates reins him in, reminding me of his best portrayal from "Inglorious Basterds". He's sufficiently chilling --- and brutal. Hounsou, though his role is much smaller, is perfectly cast as the wounded tribal chief mourning his dead son --- credible acting all around.
"The Legend of Tarzan" may not appeal to everyone, but ogling Skarsgård swing on those vines --- scantily clad --- is a bonus for women everywhere. It's highly entertaining summer fare --- see it in IMAX/3D if you can.
Opinion: See It Now!
I agree with Jeanne, forget all that "Me Tarzan, You Jane" stuff which purportedly were the famous ape man's first spoken words of English upon seeing the beautiful American. Actually, that phrase was never uttered in any Tarzan movie, nor was it ever written by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård is the 24th Tarzan portrayed in film, and his English is flawless. Years removed from his jungle beginnings, Tarzan (don't call him that, however) now lives in London as John L. Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, as refined a gentleman as anyone. Skarsgård, on the cusp of turning 40, has made some excellent films, including last year's "Diary of a Teenage Girl", which Jeanne mentions. But his dynamic performance in "The Legend of Tarzan" should make him a household name.
At the behest of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a mercenary opportunist turned humanitarian, who provides most of the comic relief in "The Legend of Tarzan", Clayton is coaxed back to his roots to combat the evil Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a Belgian aide to King Leopold who desperately needs a new money source.
Rom is the mastermind behind a diamond smuggling operation that depends on him handing Tarzan over to Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), whose son was killed by Tarzan years earlier. The ruthless Rom will stop at nothing, including slavery and murder, to accomplish his goals.
Tarzan is accompanied by his beautiful wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), and upon their return to the jungle, they are greeted by their long-ago friends. These include native tribesmen, a trio of lions, and a family of mostly friendly apes, with one notable exception involving a fisticuff showdown between Tarzan and one of the gorillas.
One of the more memorable moments has Tarzan nuzzling the lions with his forehead, a sign of affection akin to Eskimo "nose kissing". Personally, I would have liked more scenes like this, with Tarzan communicating with the animals he loves, and vice versa.
The plot is the least important element of "The Legend of Tarzan". The far greater entertainment value features terrific action sequences, like the super buff Skarsgard gliding through the jungle on vines --- call it zip lining without the line, or how about zip vining? The ferocious apes are as vicious as any seen in the recent "Planet of the Apes" films, and the pulsating score by Rupert Gregson-Williams ("Hotel Rwanda") greatly elevates the visual spectacle. Our screening was 3D/IMAX, but I'm sure "The Legend of Tarzan" will hold up quite well in good old-fashioned 2D.
The movie is punctuated behind the scenes by many contributors to the "Harry Potter" franchise, not the least of which is director David Yates, at the helm of the last four "Potter" films. Yates also directs the upcoming "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", yet another potential blockbuster from the fertile mind of
J. K. Rowling.
Old-time actor/Olympic athlete Johnny Weissmuller was the most famous movie Tarzan, and easily the most prolific with an even dozen films as the star of the jungle. But I suspect that Skarsgård, with his chiseled features and six-pack abs, will become this generation's epitome of the storied ape man. And Robbie, her fabulous looks aside, acquits herself very well as the proverbial "damsel in distress" held captive by the dastardly Rom.
Opinion: See It Now!