The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
I loved this movie too much for it to get the Itty-Bitty treatment, so prepare for some rambly gushing!
In 1912, Edgar Rice Burroughs, one of the greatest action-adventure writers in America, gave us Tarzan, a wild man raised by apes and brought back to civilization to claim his title as the Viscount of Greystoke but who then rejects society and returns to his home in the African jungle. Tarzan has the distinction, along with Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula, of being one of the most frequently portrayed character in pop culture, and this year, we get another such adventure, directed by David Yates of Harry Potter fame.
The story: After King Leopold of Belgium squanders his fortune in an attempt to exploit the riches of the African Congo, he sends in Leon Rom, his envoy, to fix things. By manipulating an unresolved blood feud, Rom is able to trick John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, to return to Africa. But once Clayton (formerly known as Tarzan) arrives with his wife Jane and American adventurer George Washington Williams (who suspects Leopold of building his colony on slave labor), Clayton discovers what Rom is really up to and proves just why Tarzan was once known as the King of the Jungle.
I was impressed at how intelligent the movie was and how close it kept to Burroughs’ own lore. Obviously, there’s lots of fun action and breathtaking visuals (something David Yates is really good at), but I was impressed at how much time was spent of developing the characters. By the time Tarzan doffs his clothes and goes full jungle hunk (and may I just say, hubba hubba!), we’ve had enough time to actually see him as a person first. Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer’s script intercuts the present action with iconic scenes from Tarzan’s upbringing in a way that doesn’t feel cliche or predictable.
Mad props to Samuel L. Jackson and Margot Robbie for a pair of great performances. Robbie’s Jane is a perfect blend of strength, intelligence, and optimism, and Jackson handles his character’s angst and humor with the deftness that only he can manage (and I gotta say, for a gentleman who’s pushing 70, he swashes and buckles with the best of them).
I loved Christoph Waltz, as well, but his character is VERY similar in style to his character from Inglourious Basterds and I’m worried that he’s falling into a typecast mold. It’s one he does very well (I was impressed at how terrifying he could make rosary beads), but I hope he avoids charming/chilling villain roles for a while to show off more of his wonderful range.
Overall, this is a gorgeous film that does the source material proud, blending interesting characters, gorgeous atmosphere, and enough swashbuckling to keep everyone entertained. I’m glad that the film recognizes its roots in sensational magazine serials and doesn’t take itself TOO seriously. For every quiet character moment, there’s a scene of bonkers action that will have you bouncing in your seat like a giddy twelve-year-old.
I had a lot of fun and I really hope this film doesn’t suffer the same fate as John Carter, slipping under the radar and tanking at the box office. Go see it, but I must warn anyone with a male significant other that this film may give you unrealistic expectations of how loyal and heroic a gentleman should be in a relationship. Guys? You should all be taking notes, especially in regards to how one wears a suit and/or long coat while walking through a London street in the 19th century. It’s important. Seriously.
I’ll see you all on Saturday!