THE story can get confusing but this movie is completely entertaining. The Legend of Tarzan is now a comic-book hero, on par with Superman and those other Marvel-lous heroes.
And the hero is a smoking sexy, chiselled body Alexander Skarsg. The vampire from True Blood brings a quiet broody glamour to this 21st century Tarzan. I do believe the most famous Tarzan on screen, Johnny Weissmuller, has been finally replaced.
The movie’s story is inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels on Lord Greystoke back in the 1900s.
In this latest cinematic Tarzan offering, our ape man is married, the lord of his manor, but he is begged to return to the Congo of Africa by the House of Commons for trade with Belgium, and the American ambassador, George Washington William (Samuel L. Jackson).
The latter (who is a historical figure and not fiction) wants to investigate rumours of slavery and even the genocide of tribes under the rule of Belgium’s King Leopold II, who was histgorically known as the butcher of the Congo.
But the ambassador needs Lord Greystoke help in all this well-meaning tasks.
The rest of the movie’s narrative seems to be mashup of the first Tarzan story with the book’s sequel. And, director David Yates with screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer then threw in a Lone Ranger-Tonto buddy action into the mix.
So, let’s not compare the storylines in print and celluloid.
In the movie, the trade with Belgium offer is a ruse by King Leopold’s emissary to the Congo, Leon Rom (Christopher Waltz). He has made a deal with a local chief to get diamonds, but the chief wants Tarzan as his payment.
The lord of the jungle, the ambassador and a wilful Lady Greystoke a.k.a. Jane (Margot Robbie) return to Africa, and evade Rom’s militia “greeting”. The trio end up in Tarzan’s tribal home, happy times ensue as memories are revived.
There is a lot of flashbacks to how Tarzan got to be Tarzan, starting with his parents dying.
Rom finds out where Tarzan is, captures him, as well as some new slaves and Jane. But the ambassador manages to save Tarzan. So now, they must resuce Jane.
Along the way, through jungle, by train, on foot, in trees, we are left enamoured by the beauty of the Congo and its animals.
The CGI used is mostly consistently good. While there was one indelible scene where the gorillas looked ridiculously flat on screen, the motion-capture for Tarzan’s fight scene with his “brother” Atuk is amazing!
In the end, Tarzan gets the help of the jungle’s animals to stampede Rom’s military and finally rescues his Jane before Rom’s army arrives in full sail.
At times, the movie feels like Mowgli of Jungle Book has all grown up, and other times, it’s the National Geographic Channel. One scene was the use of ants to “sew up” one of Tarzan’s gashes. That drew some ‘oohs” from the audience while sexual references in the dialogue drew giggles.
Waltz as the villainous Rom seems to be playing his usual role which you may have caught in Django. Perhaps he has been typecast, but as Rom, Waltz is still believable, right down to a rosary that seems to act like a weapon.
The poor Ms Margot is really just a damsel in distress in this movie — even the animals have more to do than she does.
Jackson as the ambassador plays his Tonto role with such success that Tarzan is now his action adventure buddy.
The movie is aided by some visually arresting action sequences, like tarzan swinging through the jungle with his ape brothers. Or leaping around with his tribesmen.
By the way, he has a baby boy in the movie. The next Burroughs’ book is about the boy being kidnapped. Ah! You heard about the sequel here first!