Following his parents' death in Africa, John Clayton has been be raised by an ape, was known by the name Tarzan, but eventually left Africa and for his parents' home in England, along with the woman he fell in love with and married, Jane Porter. He is asked by Belgian King Leopold to go to Africa to see what he has done there to help the country. Initially, he refuses. But an American, George Washington Williams, wants him to accept so he can accompany him. He says that Leopold might be committing all sorts of atrocities to achieve his goal, like slavery. Clayton agrees and his wife insists that she accompany him because she misses Africa. When they arrive, a man named Rom, who works for Leopold, attacks their village and captures Tarzan and Jane. With Washington's help he escapes and sets out to rescue Jane by going across the jungle. Washington joins him despite being told that he might not make it.Written by
King Leopold II was the exclusive owner of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908. He once said, "It is a question of creating a new State, as big as possible, and of running it. It is clearly understood that in this project there is no question of granting the slightest political power to the negros (sic). That would be absurd." See more »
As would be the case with Black Panther, most of the Africans are pale to the point of looking ill. In this film, with the bundu scenes being shot in England, the British climate, latitude, and limited sunshine is a major factor. See more »
The story of Tarzan is so ingrained into the brains of moviegoers that it's difficult to really put a new stamp or add something fresh to something so well-known. While Legend of Tarzan certainly attempts to take a new approach structurally, it never swings off the screen as gracefully as I had hoped.
2016 has been a rough year for big budgeted films. So many bombs and duds overshadow some of the great ones we've had through the first half. This film isn't necessarily in either camp. It begins the second half of this year with a formidable installment in the long-running ape-man franchise. David Yates, director of the last four Harry Potter films, does absolutely nothing special with the characters of Tarzan and Jane, but I was nonetheless entertained by the film from beginning to end.
Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie portray Tarzan and Jane respectively. Both give solid performances but neither brought anything new to the characters. It took me awhile to adapt to Skarsgård's more guarded portrayal. In fact, for a good portion of the first half, I found his performance to be quite stiff. Tarzan isn't supposed to be running around cracking jokes, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more lightness to him. Although Robbie is very good as Jane, she doesn't get a whole lot to do as she's tied up by the villainous Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) for half the film. She's far from a damsel in distress, because she's definitely not helpless, but the plot constantly puts her in position to be a device or Tarzan's motivation to do something. I think Robbie could have done something special given the chance.
Undeniably good, however, is everything to do with the apes. I've seen the backstory before, but I loved watching his ever-changing relationship with his family of apes and the various flashbacks to what came before Tarzan's venture into home life in England. It's also where the film succeeds the most visually. While some animals, including a pretty bad ostrich, are weak on CGI, the apes are animated tremendously. The cinematography through the jungle and in the African mountains is quite beautiful. However, there are several moments of awful green screen footage. I'm talking cringe worthy background visuals.
Having said all this, I was definitely invested in the story they were telling. Tarzan is thrust into a choice to return home and chaos ensues when Leon Rom, a corrupt Belgian captain who tricked him into returning to the Congo in the first place. At times the tone blurs the lines from taking its source material too seriously and supplementing it with some weak dialogue with an average romance. I think that's the best way to describe most of the film, average.
I appreciate the filmmakers approach in taking the Tarzan story in a different direction in having it be about his return home and to his animalistic ways. But the best part about this film is Tarzan's relationship to his ape family and the background to that. I would have just liked to see more of that side of things rather than just bits and pieces here or there. Christoph Waltz was exactly what I needed out of a Tarzan villain and Samuel L. Jackson's humorous sidekick to Tarzan worked seamlessly. To me, there's plenty good here, but there was potential for greatness.
+Solid performances from the leads
+Samuel L added some much needed humor
+Apes Apes Apes
+Some visuals and fight scenes
-Others were too noticeably green screen
-Struggles to balance tone at times
-Needed more apes
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