A Not-So-New Story: Our Review Of ‘The Legend Of Tarzan’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 01, 2016
A Not-So-New Story: Our Review Of ‘The Legend Of Tarzan’

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tale has been somewhat edited in this latest installment by director David Yates — of Harry Potter films notoriety.  Alexander Skarsgård stars as Tarzan a.k.a. John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke alongside Margot Robbie, as Jane Porter. The story has some additional primary characters in the form of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), and Belgian Captain Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz).

The story is set in the late 1880’s after many years since Tarzan left the jungles of Africa—where he was raised by the great apes. He is now an aristocrat in Victorian London, with his beloved wife, Jane at his side. At the start of the film, we see Clayton been invited back to the Congo Free State to serve as a trade emissary of the House of Commons. Refusing to go, George Washington Williams encourages Clayton to go back to Africa, in order for Williams to uncover the truth behind Leopold’s enslavement of locals and exploitation of the colony. What Clayton does not know is that he is the pawn in a deadly plan concocted by the corrupt Cpt. Rom, and that vengeful Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) is hoping to kill Tarzan himself in retribution for the death of his only son.


Once in the Congo, Tarzan is quickly pursued by Cpt. Rom and his men, kidnapping Jane in the process. In between Tarzan chasing after Cpt. Rom and Jane, we see flashbacks retelling his origin story. It is a bit unfortunate the audience does not get much more of the origin story. There is enough there, however, to get the point.

What is good to see is how Jane is not just another ‘damsel in distress’. She can hold her own fairly well throughout the film. Having Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams certainly improves the film — as is Waltz, in yet another ‘evil’ character. But he is sooo good at being evil. Skarsgård is a lean version of Tarzan but he is charming, as he is brutal when he needs to be. This writer has absolutely no issues with him being half-clothed for most of the film… enjoy the ‘visuals’.

Although some reviewers find the story still problematic or uncomfortable, it still makes for an entertaining film. It is decent as a remake and summer studio ‘Blockbuster’. The performances by all major players work well within the confines of the story.

The visuals work well in this writer’s opinion. Of course, there is plenty use of CGI & green screen. They have to in this case, as there is plenty of action that needs to be packed into the jungle and around it. Seen in 3D and IMAX, there are no major issues with the film visually. The visuals are neither ‘fake’ looking nor any worse than other films we have seen recently. The jungle is lit darker and looks hazy; the jungle is dark and hot. When not in the jungle, it appears the director of photography Henry Braham chose specific shots, colours and lighting to evoke different moods. These work well enough. There is no need to spend too much time dissecting the technical aspects of the film; it is not that type of film.

tarzanThe film tries to address issues of colonialism from the get-go; has a female character that is more than another ‘damsel in distress’; it casts more people of colour than other ‘big films’ not worth mentioning… it is not a perfect film because the original story is obviously problematic. Aside from this, the film is entertaining. If you go see this film, enjoy for what it is… a ‘legend’.  If you discuss the actual history post-film, bonus! See the film if you’re curious about the remake and are willing to go where it takes you.

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Heidy has a love of fine art history, films, books, world issues, music and science, leading her to share her adventures on her website (www.hyemusings.ca) , and as a contributor at other outlets. She loves sharing the many happenings in Toronto and hopes people will go out and support the arts in any fashion possible.
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