Tarzan is one of those character like Zorro or Robin Hood, where pretty much everybody knows the basics of their story. Because of that, audiences have started to see more and more different takes on these classic stories. Robin Hood got a gritty retelling in 2010 with Russell Crowe, Zorro has an upcoming post apocalyptic re-imagining, and here, The Legend of Tarzan is a semi-sequel, with possibly the most attractive cast of all time.
Picking up after the events of the story we know, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) now goes by his family name, John Clayton, and lives at his ancestral home Greystoke manor, with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). At the same time Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), the right hand man of the Belgian crown, is using some underhanded tactics to get the most out of the land his King owns. Clayton’s comfortable and happy life is interrupted when he’s invited to go back to The Congo, and while the official reason for his visit is publicity, he wants to get to the bottom of what’s been going on in the land he grew up in.
David Yates is quickly become one of the most underrated directors working today. While the majority of his filmography is made up of the last four Harry Potter films, and the upcoming spin off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this is his first major studio release not connected to that franchise, and he’s really done a great job. The visuals here are brilliant, with all of the African settings being both interesting and beautiful to look at, and while some of the CGI doesn’t quite match up to 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it’s still largely convincing.
He’s also produced some good performances from his actors, with Skarsgård showing both the soft and loving gentleman John Clayton, and the physically imposing, ape like Tarzan. He really embodies the physicality of the role, and even watching him fight a gorilla isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds on paper. Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz also give better performances than they have recently, excluding in Quentin Tarantino films. Margot Robbie isn’t quite as good, having an inconsistent accent and failing to be likeable, but it’s not hugely distracting.
While some people might find this plot boring, I thought the look at a different period of this character’s life was much needed, if Tarzan is to continue to survive in the public consciousness. This film also touches on how he grew up and met Jane, all through flashbacks. These break up the action nicely, and add more depth to the main story we’re watching.
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