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Warner Brothers and David Yates (the last four Harry Potter films) have come together to bring yet another incarnation of a loin cloth wearing, chiseled stomach showing, ape nurtured Tarzan in the most unpredictable of ways. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is not yet another origins film but rather a continuation of a story we all know too well. The film begins with a refreshing story of Tarzan and Jane after they have left the jungles of Africa and have settled back in England. This is no children’s movie and contrary to some popular belief, contains a much richer plot and synopsis to deliver a refreshing take on the beloved Tarzan while allowing for the audience to grow even more fond of the wild man meets England menagerie. A star-studded talented cast with a more adult-oriented story, stunning CGI-filled scenery and more action sequences than a Die Hard film allows for an shockingly entertaining summer blockbuster without a dumbing down of a screenplay for wider audience.
Before reading forward, the movie is lightly based on the books and treads lightly and further themes that were later written in the world. While I stress the plot is stronger than many other Tarzan related films, it is nowhere near that of the many added stories and characters that are represented in the books, but perhaps we are headed to a more in depth look at a character most audiences only know of his raising.
With rigid jaw-line Alexander Skarsgard playing Tarzan, the absolutely adorable yet non-damsel is distress Margot Robbie playing Jane, the never-ending one-liner giving Samuel L. Jackson playing comedic relief giving Doc Williams, and the ever popular Oscar Award Winning Christoph Waltz playing the mute yellow suit wearing nemesis Leon Rom, it’s a no doubter that this cast of characters have come together because they actually saw something a little special about this telling.
Many are searching far too deep for stronger meaning or perhaps for something too Academy Award winning worthiness for a film stuck in between other such giants of what encompasses the summer movie market. The Legend of Tarzan is far from legendary, but I’d be damned if one should not find it entertaining, exhilarating, or downright clever at times.
Facing dilemmas of being too serious like a gritty super hero moving from Christopher Nolan or too light hearted like a silly Dwayne Johnson mummy action flick, David Yates fights for something in the middle. Suffering from cringeworthy one-liners that could contend with SAN ADREAS’s worse to some CGI blunders lacking simple shadows for believability, the movie does fortunately know what it’s trying to be. Yates visionary take on the beautiful vine covered canopy of leaves and impressive landscapes to cleverly thought out cinematography takes note on what could have otherwise been just another forgettable “been there done” that action flick.
Years after the once only known as Tarzan, John Clayton III now Lord Greystoke has left Africa behind with now wife Jane, he has been invited back to the jungle in a near publicity stunt with the royals of Congo. In doing so, John Clayton returns to a child home where the friendships with man and animal are countless but the enemies made even stronger. Filled with greed, Captain Leon Rom returns for his search of diamonds and wealth as well as to fulfill a promise of delivering Tarzan to the deadly and powerful Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou).
Despite some rather crude jokes that will fly over any child’s heads, The Legend of Tarzan can be taken quite seriously. Dealing with themes of slavery and the blood diamond trade, this version of the tale remains grounded. In an otherwise unbelievable story, the films benefits from real-life themes that were played out in the late 19th century. Perhaps I found this subplot far more intriguing them some, though I did feel this new storyline helps take away any Disney-fied misconceptions of this tale making it far more bearable for an adult audience. Once again, while it’s not terribly violent, it’s probably not the most kid engaging film of the summer and your 7-year-olds you are debating on bringing may become quite squirmy.
The screenplay is rather creative a chronological telling yet still presents several flashbacks to help understand this version of Tarzan’s history. Small added details that sometimes feel forced are actually welcomed with additions like Tarzan’s bones structure has formed differently from walking on his knuckles to subtle details as to how he greets animals to show affection.
Christoph Waltz adds another layer of genius acting with added tension in several dialogue driven scenes, but everyone does quite well. Besides the very forced comedic relief scenes with Samuel L. Jackson, there are no standouts in poor performance. The audience is even fortunate enough to not have to deal with a badly spoken caveman type Tarzan character.
The Legend of Tarzan offers more than the standard meaning of family or overcoming the monster story-type many moviegoers are probably expecting. While the meaning behind the story may not drive home a moral high ground, it instead delivers a new feel to the genre that perhaps is leading to a new era of cheesy summer blockbusters now containing a little more seriousness, maybe a little more meaning, to what could otherwise just be another man raised in the woods movie