"Tarzan" initially appeared to readers in 1912 in a magazine publication and two years later, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the novel "Tarzan of the Apes." After 25 sequels in the book series, the character also has been recreated numerous times through television and movies. The newest version, "The Legend of Tarzan," starring Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie, will give newcomers to the story just the right background while entertaining both new and old fans of The Lord of the Jungle.
"The Legend of Tarzan" finds our main character, John Clayton (Skarsgard), safe and sound in his glorious mansion sipping tea while his gorgeous wife, Jane (Robbie) teaches children about the far off land of Africa. This polar opposite image of the hero of the jungle is convinced to return to the Congo in an effort to confirm or disprove the kidnapping of natives for slavery. The identity of the mastermind and his motivations create devastating consequences for the African people and the animals that Tarzan and Jane cherish.
Initially, the pace of the film is quite slow as it attempts to set up the premise of the film. It livens up when Tarzan, Jane and the American, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who suspects wrongdoing by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), find themselves in Africa. There is no questions as to who is evil to the core and who resides on the side of good. With a classic damsel in distress storyline — although this damsel is tougher than most men — Tarzan must not only save his wife, but the entire country as well.
Tarzan's extraordinary skills as animal communicator and possessing gorilla-like strength and agility are just the ticket to get the job done. The pacing never fails after the first 20 minutes and humor abounds thanks to Williams. Although it's a simplistic story, it attempts to make a few social and environmental statements as well.
Skarsgard's portrayal of Tarzan initially is an unlikely one, but once he gets to the jungle, this lean and chiseled actor makes a believer out of you. Much of his performance is purely physical with astute direction and editing, creating this newest version of Tarzan. Robbie is quite capable as the smart and tough Jane but also a stunningly beautiful angelic wife, even after romping through the hippopotamus-infested rivers.
Waltz seems to be typecast as the maniacal and evil mastermind in "Tarzan," but he does it with such ease that you truly enjoy seeing him in this role. His signature reactions and expressions set him apart from other actors, and we welcome this evil character. Jackson also is a standout. Who knew he could do comedy? He's the brunt of his own jokes as he recognizes that he just can't keep up with Tarzan and his tribal buddies. Jackson's timing is impeccable, along with his physical reactions to the demands placed upon this city dweller. The humor he provides is the element that is needed to balance the film's intensity.
Additionally, the computer generated imagery is remarkable, imparting no clear line of make-believe and reality, allowing you to willingly plunge into the film. Actors "interact" with the animals and perform amazing stunts. The realistic images are stunning as the artists pay particular attention to the animals' eyes, creating a sense of empathy. The fight scenes are mesmerizing.
"The Legend of Tarzan" is an entertaining and high-paced film, the special effects are impressive and the story is clear and simple, but it's also refreshing to have a social and moral message subtly intertwined. It's a fun escape from summer's heat.
Note: This film is not intended for young ones as the images can be rather scary and the fighting is quite harsh.
2 1/2 out of 4 stars