Some characters throughout history will never be forgotten and have become icons of good and evil. Villains like Darth Vader, the Joker, Norman Bates, Ming the Merciless, and Captain Hook and heroes like Sherlock Holmes, Superman, The Lone Ranger, Robin Hood have all been imprinted into our social psyches, recognized almost anywhere on the globe in any language. Joining their company would have to be Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan. There have been over 50 films featuring the Lord of the Apes. Tarzan returns to the movies in David Yates The Legend of Tarzan, out this month on Blu-ray and DVD.
John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård), known to the world as Tarzan, a young man raised by apes in Africa after the death of his parents in the jungle after a shipwreck, has now lived for years at his parent’s home in England. He is civilized and married to Jane Porter (Margot Robbie) and happy. But when he is asked to return to Africa to investigate the actions of Belgian King Leopold, who may be committing all sorts of atrocities to take over the country, he accepts and returns along with Jane and American George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson). Once in Africa though they are faced with the nefarious Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) who may have some disturbing plans for Tarzan upon his arrival.
The Legend of Tarzan is a wonderful return to the classic character and thankfully not another rehash of his origin story. This film is a continuation of his story and a new story to boot. Skarsgård is perfectly suited for the role of Tarzan and pulls it off wonderfully as an emotionally complex character torn between two worlds. Margot Robbie is also excellent as Jane, portraying her as a headstrong and independent woman, also refreshing. And Samuel L. Jackson is great as always as the brash but loyal American associate accompanying the Clayton’s. But aside from Skarsgård the movie is really stolen by Christoph Waltz, which tends to happen when he appears in films. He is a conniving and deliciously evil villain that enjoys what he does. Director Yates also does a great job of marrying newer technology and CG with old fashioned feeling shots and environments creating a vast, luscious jungle that seems infinitely dangerous and huge. The action sequences are stunning and fluid with Tarzan’s grasp of maneuvering in the jungle perfectly conveyed. The CG animals are also fantastic and really lend to the classic feel of the film without trading it in for the slick modern feel. They seem to be expertly fused here for a fresh feeling take on the classic Tarzan character. For adventure fans, The Legend of Tarzan is highly recommended.