MOVIE REVIEW – Tarzan and all of the other jungle characters were created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912 and adapted in movies since as far as 1918. While the older movies were more in common with B-movie action-adventures, the 1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan was the first Tarzan movie, with French actor Christopher Lambert, which attempted to tell the original story as visualized by the author. Curiously, the vision conceived by director David Yates, who made the final four Harry Potter films, is so close to the 1984 Greystoke that I fear the public may prove him wrong.
The story also feels like the direct continuation of 1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan – with Alexander Skarsgård this time around instead of Christopher Lambert. John Clayton (Tarzan) is living in London now, as the wealthy aristocrat Lord Greystoke and he has no intention to return to the jungle.
Return to the jungle from posh aristocracy
Yes, you read it right: Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) is now an impeccably dressed English aristocrat refined by perfect diction and the title Lord John Clayton III, heir to the estate left by his grandfather, the sixth Earl of Greystoke. He indeed returned to civilization where he exchanged a loincloth for a three-piece suit and learned to prefer Earl Grey tea to yak milk.
Fans of the old MGM films may also be disappointed that Jane (Margot Robbie) has become an American, there is no Boy around now, nor the playful and roguish chimpanzee named Cheetah (both of whom were MGM inventions). We can also see many flashbacks refer to the shipwreck on the Ivory Coast that left him stranded in the wilds of Africa and raised by gorillas.
The new story begins when Tarzan, is asked to go back to the Congo on a diplomatic mission as an emissary from British Parliament. He declines the invitation with one of the film’s best lines: “I’ve already seen Africa—and it’s hot!” Still, he’s convinced by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) to go back, because human slavery is involved, and his wife, Jane also convince him, to take her with him.
The diabolical Belgian villain Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) is behind all this nastiness: he plunders their diamond supply, guarded by a tribe whose chief promises him the jewels on one condition: bring back Tarzan for the tribe to torture and kill. Rom only manages to capture Jane (as you could see in the trailer) and there commence a big game of cat and mouse with Tarzan trying to both save his wife and stop the evil mastermind Rom’s plan to come to fruition.
Surprisingly good acting
While the story may seem a bit naïve and simple at first, the era is pretty well presented with different political and personal interests colliding at the exotic place of Congo. Alexander Skarsgard may be a bit too handsome and delicate-looking looking for the role, but he’s sufficiently pumped, buffed and camera-ready to play a convincing Tarzan. He’s also perfect as the English gentleman, who still fully preserved his wild nature, just hid it entirely under his aristocratic mask. Yes, it may remind you a bit too much Batman, but the story is character-drive enough to forget this similarity.
On the other hand, Waltz is almost perfect with his sublime performing in the art of delectable villainy, a smarmy smile on his face in a white ice cream suit.
In fact, Waltz a bit too comfortable in those roles now: after Inglorious Basterds and SPECTRE his delivering yet another perfectly acted, but all-too-similar villain. If you have seen the other two movies, it may bother you a bit, but you still can’t deny that Waltz is just flawless at playing those movie villains.
Margot Robbie delivers a headstrong Jane here who speaks a perfect Watusi and her charming face, and lovely body hides an adamant personality. Unfortunately, the erotic scene where she hit Skarsgård too hard in the face is missing from the movie, and every allusion to her hotness as well. It seems like a missed opportunity, but it was probably on purpose so that the movie could get away with the lowest age rating possible.
Swing that rope, Tarzan!
You have to admire the sheer physical scope of this epic, even if there are no real animals in it. The gorillas, lions and crocodiles hankering to make a meal of Tarzan are all computer-generated and have lost their bite. The gorillas snarl and bare their fangs, fighting Tarzan out of revenge for old time’s sake, but they look like dress extras in gorilla costumes from old Jungle Jim flicks.
On the other hand, if you are a fan of 3D effects, the movie is a bit weak in that aspect and doesn’t really use the technology to its fullest. It’s a shame because all this swinging at dizzying heights could have been more jaw-dropping with a better-done 3D.
The fighting scenes were also tame a bit too much – except one “duel” of Tarzan against his former money friend.
Edgar Rice Burroughs can rest easy
The biggest achievement of the Tarzan movie is that while it preserves flawlessly the original spirit of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, it still stays an entertaining action-adventure movie. Yes, the story is a bit naïve, yes, there are some cheesy or even cringe-worthy scenes here-and-there, but overall nothing drastic to complain about.
The Legend of Tarzan is a nice, entertaining summer blockbuster, with good acting enjoyable action scenes and an agreable story. That’s what you should expect from a Tarzan movie, isn’t it?