We all know who Tarzan is, right? The son of an english lord and lady who was raised by apes in the deep jungles of Africa after the death of his parents? Lord of Greystoke? Any of this ringing a bell?
When Universal first announced plans to resurrect the famed vine swinging hero, the thing we heard/read the most often was “Why?”. In this climate of Hollywood reboots, sequels, and requels, why revisit a character not relevant since Disney’s 1999 animated film? While yes, the character has endured 52 feature films (including 4 animated), why bring him back NOW for a 53rd? The assumption is someone’s film rights were running out, and so a movie needed to be produced to maintain possession. Luckily for us, the resulting Legend of Tarzan isn’t terrible.
Director David Yates (Harry Potter films 5-8, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them) takes the helm, delivering a story that most closely following the 1984 Christopher Lambert Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. We know most of these characters, we know the basic history of our main pair, and thankfully the script assumes that. There are limited “flashbacks”, filling in moments in time rather than retelling EVERYTHING that happened in Tarzan’s past.
We meet Lord John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife Lady Jane Clayton (Margot Robbie) 8 years since their move from Africa to Greystoke manor in England. Things are moving as one would expect for the pair, Jane is teaching the local children much as she did back in Africa. There is a scene where John shows the children his hands; knuckles large and flat. “I learned to run on all fours” he says while the most brilliant use of CGI is shown. Though much House of Lords talk, John is convinced to return to Africa and reluctantly brings Jane.
Christoph Waltz as the film’s main villain Leon Rom is interesting, you really want to know more about his motivations and why he is as fastidious in his idiosyncrasies. Consider this Waltz plays an Indiana Jones villain, at times he is incredibly reminiscent of Belloq and Donovan. He considers himself a patriot of sorts, making deals with African natives for diamonds to fund the Belgian army’s presence in the Congo Basin. A deal that would line Rom’s pocket with scores of legendary diamonds, but at the price of Tarzan being delivered into the hands of Chief Mbonga, played by Djimon Hounsou.
Hounsou gives probably the best (albeit short) performance in the film, delivering a stunning power and emotional breakdown. We REALLY need to see more of him in leading roles.
The addition of Samuel L. Jackson as American mercenary George Washington Williams is interesting, he plays well with the of the cast while also bringing shades of humor.
Surprisingly, the film is strong in both action and story, the limited script an inspired choice as to not bog down the plot with too much talk. There are times the CGI isn’t great, in a world where the rebooted Planet of the Apes films exist I would expect animated primates to look REALLY good, which they don’t. Tarzan swinging through the trees on vines also looks somewhat unfinished, but you accept the believability early on.
The only thing it falls short on is the love story. Sure, I’m not a huge fan of romance etc. in my films, but for a story like this, you need to BELIEVE it. The pair of Jane and Tarzan are well suited, deep longing looks from their eyes and strength of character primarily. I’m glad they didn’t have the romance as the primary element, but there needed to be more I think.
SCORE: 7.5 out of 10, non 3d showing
Give it a chance, if all revisited classic reboots were treated with this level of care I wouldn’t be so quick to condemn them. Also, nice to see the herd who killed Mufasa getting work again.
The Legend of Tarzan opens worldwide on Friday July 1st 2016. Check your local theater for times, and check out what Geekgasm had to say about it: