The saga of Tarzan began more than a century ago, when Edgar Rice Burroughs completed his novel, “Tarzan of the Apes.” An epic tale from the start, Tarzan has been retold in countless novels, comic books, and films. “The Legend of Tarzan” attempts once again to make this story new, pulling Tarzan and Jane into a vivid, visceral world on the silver screen.
John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård) has left his jungle home, returned to his estate in England, and made his Jane (Margot Robbie) the Lady of Greystoke Manor.
In a meeting with the Prime Minister (Jim Broadbent) and George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) implore Lord Clayton to return to Africa on official business.
According to Williams, King Leopold of Belgium has taken possession of the Congo not only to reap the diamonds and riches from the land, but to enslave and murder its native people in the process. Clayton reluctantly agrees to return with Williams to the wilds of the jungle, with headstrong Jane demanding to go along for the journey.
In the Congo, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) has been very busy, setting up the architecture of King Leopold’s oppressive dominion by any means necessary. Tarzan, Jane, and Williams must outwit and overcome Rom and his forces if the Congo and its people are to survive.
“The Legend of Tarzan” should have been an excellent movie. The performances from Skarsgård, Jackson, Waltz, and Robbie are nuanced and well executed.
The visual style of the film, apart from a menagerie of regrettable CGI animals, is as vivid as any jungle could be. Even the writing is occasionally clever, never taking the drama too seriously for a few lewd jokes.
Unfortunately, when it all comes together, it still lacks the vital spark that an old story needs to truly come back to life. Whether it stems from a lack of plot elegance, or an unwillingness to truly examine the cowardice of colonial brutality in the era, “The Legend of Tarzan” doesn’t quite grasp the “real” element that the film so desperately reached for.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and brief rude dialogue.