The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) wants nothing more than to forget his past. His decision to marry Jane and move to England forced him to give up the apes that raised him and become an outcast. The last thing he wants to do is return to the continent on a publicity tour instigated by the King of Belgium. But his friend, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) has suspicions about what is really going on in Africa, and convinces him to return to his roots. Jane (Margot Robbie) cannot wait to return to their old stomping grounds, but Tarzan had a bad feeling.

 

He gets off his intended route and strikes out across the savannah... and this puts a kink in Leon Rom's (Christoph Waltz) plans. He bargained Tarzan for diamonds, with an African Chief (Djimon Hounsou), and Leopold needs the cash. The decision he makes places Jane in peril, forces Tarzan to "go wild" in her rescue, and digs up old ghosts, leading to an action-packed confrontation that gets just a little bit wild.

 

Tarzan movies range from cheesy to decent, the most notable recent adaptation belonging to Disney. I expected little going into this, aware that it received poor reviews, and was surprised not only at the strength of the plot, but the memorable characters, the incredible animal animation, and the solid acting. Never once is it dull, the characters receive depth through moving flashbacks, and the villain has enough quiet menace to raise the hair on the back of your neck. The costuming, what there is of it before rain, high winds, and snarling animals shreds Jane's dress, is excellent; the setting exotic. Jackson provides comedic relief (he is less willing than Tarzan to leap into the literal unknown) while displaying wisdom and insight.

 

It may not be an epic worthy of ten thousand viewings, but it's hardly a bomb either -- the story is never redundant, maintains an independent streak, and, for me at least, did not retrace old ground so much that it bored me. Instead, I sat there for two and a half hours, totally engaged and entertained. It doesn't shy away from dealing with harsher topics (forced servitude, kidnapping, and slavery are present here), it doesn't hesitate to establish the true peril of its leading lady (but in her own words, she's no damsel in distress, either), and it doesn't rely on eye candy to push its plot forward. It uses an actual script for that. I'm glad I gave it a chance, even if Tarzan does yell. (Well, it wouldn't be a Tarzan movie if he didn't!) 

     
Sexual Content:
Jane remarks on hearing animals' mating calls; her husband then comes up behind her, kisses her passionately, and drops with her into bed. She straddles him for a kiss while in a tree. A man implies to her that if she weren't valuable to his boss, the crew would rape her. Tarzan is naked throughout his childhood and when he first meets Jane; she averts his eyes (the camera sees nothing distinct).
 
Language:
Several abuses of Jesus' name, some profanities.
 
Violence:
Men gun down one another and wild animals; gorillas beat people to death, or are shot and killed. Tarzan is nearly killed in one knuckle-cracking throw-down with a gorilla. Men are thrown from a train, drown in the river, and get attacked by alligators. 

 
Other:
None.