In 1912, Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced Tarzan – a jungle hero determined to save his habitat. In many ways, Tarzan was an early eco-warrior, defending nature against outside interests.
Countless films and TV shows have been made of this enduring character. It’s difficult seeing how any new film could be fresh although The Legend of Tarzan gives it a good go. Almost a remake of Greystoke: the Legend of Tarzan from 1984, it mirrors its realistic rustic charms. This 21st Century Tarzan also proves swinging from jungle vines still looks cool a century from his debut.
John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard) lives in London with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). Born in the African jungle and raised by an ape, John left his life behind. When American George Washington Williams (Samuel L Jackson) asks John to look into the shady dealings of land owner King Leopold and his assistant Leon (Christoph Waltz), he accepts. Returning to Africa, John quickly reverts to his old name of Tarzan, as Leopold’s machinations put the lives of all Tarzan holds dear in mortal peril.
The Legend of Tarzan is a surprising movie. Surprising in that it’s actually bearable to watch compared to other Tarzan movies. Whilst it has issues in terms of somewhat sluggish pacing, it’s a generally fun caper full of well-filmed action. Credit goes to director David Yates who teases something special out of the formulaic screenplay. Yates twists some of the classic Tarzan conventions on their head so as to not make the film too predictable.
Tarzan’s acceptance of his heritage and how he came to be are well handled. The actors mostly do a decent job in these sequences as well as the excitingly shot action scenes. Skarsgard doesn’t do much except look rather serious in a loincloth with Jackson providing the charismatic spark the film needs. Waltz must be tired of playing so many villains but he again does a good turn as the moustache twirling baddie. The CGI complements rather than take away from the drama, making the jungle vistas come alive in all their glory.
The Legend of Tarzan has some problems but it’s a generally enjoyable frolic. Not much can be taken too seriously and it almost erases the rather dour image the character has built over the years. It is one of the better Tarzan adaptations and surely not the last for this eternally popular hero.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6