LEGEND OF TARZAN, THE
The man known as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard), having acclimatized to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.
Alexander Skarsgard’s abs, the magic of a digitally inhabited jungle and the breathtaking beauty of the Congo setting are the key elements of this interesting mix of superhero epic, adventure, creature feature, historical drama buoyed by a touch of lusty romance. It’s an ambitious re-working of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tale about the young boy brought up by apes, and here, the focus is the slavery and greed as Belgium mistreats its colony. It’s a bit like a cross between Planet of the Apes, Spiderman, Downton Abbey, The Hateful Eight and Indiana Jones all rolled into one rollicking adventure.
It takes a while to get going but once Skarsgard bares his abs and starts swinging on the vines in the heart of Africa, things heat up. The early scenes in Greystoke manor, when Lord John Clayton (Skarsgard) assumes his gentrified life are dull. The most interesting scene shows John kissing Jane (Margot Robbie) high up in a tree. In line with screenwriters’ Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer’s screenplay, it needs to be established that in the late 19th century, Belgium’s King Leopold is exploiting his colony with slavery as he mines for diamonds; Samuel L. Jackson’s diplomatic envoy has been recruited to find proof.
Tarzan, you look funny – says the Congolese chief, voicing what we are all thinking, when a rather over-dressed Tarzan arrives in the heart of the Congo, after affectionately head-butting some lions along the way. An aggressive ape prompts Tarzan’s shirt to come off. And about time, too. The depiction of Tarzan’s relationship with the animals is nicely established, especially as he battles with and shows respect to the aggressive apes. We are transported by the magic of the visual effects. Skarsgard is an enigmatic presence and brings a soulful quality to Tarzan, showing he has far more to offer than his physicality alone.
It is a terrific cast all round and Margot Robbie is perfectly cast as the loyal, feisty Jane: her beautiful features are showcased in every frame. The sexual tension between Robbie and Skarsgard evolves naturally. Christoph Waltz creates a complete villain yet again as Leon Rorn, King Leopold’s personal envoy: an orderly man who wears a white linen suit, a practiced smile and who puts the rosary wrapped around his right wrist to deadly use. As Chief Mbonga, Djimon Hounsou looks every bit the sculpted black god complete with leopard skin headdress. There are touches of humour but the attempts between Jackson and Skarsgard fall rather flat at times; Jackson looks as though he has come straight from the set of The Hateful Eight, rifle in hand.
Director David Yates finds his stride as the film crescendoes to its action-rich climax, building up a powerful head of steam. Action highlights include a thrilling stampede when Tarzan recruits his animal friends, electrifying jungle sequences and an extraordinary finale involving a paddle-steamer, the cavalry, slaves and crocodiles. It is quite a different take on the Tarzan tale, and once the film finds its groove, is an entertaining and satisfying adventure with exotic elements.
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LEGEND OF TARZAN, THE (PG)
CAST: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, Casper Crump, Rory J. Saper, John Samuel Kande
PRODUCER: David Barron, Alan Riche, Jerry Weintraub
DIRECTOR: David Yates
SCRIPT: Adam Cozad, Craig Brewer (stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Henry Braham
EDITOR: Mark Day
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stuart Craig
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 7, 2016