Throughout the years, we’ve had several animated movies telling the tale of Tarzan, the legend of the jungle; most notably the Disney in 1999. In recent times, we’ve had Kellan Lutz taking up the role of the vine swinger in 2013’s “Tarzan”.
However, the most recent live-action film involving Tarzan, “Tarzan and the Lost City”, was released in 1998. This means that there’s an 18-year gap between the aforementioned movie and the recently-released “Legend of Tarzan”. With such a huge period of time between the movies, it’s no wonder that the latter is generating such hype.
Wondering if “Legend of Tarzan” lives up to its expectations? Well, we’re here to answer your question.
In this retelling, Alexander Skarsgård acts as Tarzan/John Clayton, while Margot Robbie is his love interest, Jane Porter. Also in the movie is Samuel L. Jackson, portraying the character of George Washington Williams, an American soldier and politician (not to be mistaken with George Washington, the 1st president of the United States of America).
While many movie adaptations of the fictional character focuses on how he assimilates into human culture and gets used to human interaction, this version of the tale portrays a Tarzan that is already living amongst humans. John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke (Tarzan’s real name) is quite a high-ranking official, and while not much of his diplomatic side was revealed, this Tarzan is reluctant to return to the jungle even when presented the chance to visit Congo as a trade emissary of Parliament.
In fact, the man has perfected the social norms and culture of humankind that no one would even know of his past had he not been a famous figure, with the citizens of his country dubbing him “Tarzan of the Apes”. However, his assimilation does not mean that his primal side has been tamed. He shows off his agility when he climbs up a tree in 1 deft move and his “knuckle-walking” skills has clearly not diminished even after years of walking upright.
However, this retelling is not purely a story about Tarzan, it’s also about slavery and the preservation of wildlife.
Clayton refuses to go back to Congo, his place of origin, although he was invited as a guest. But one politician who won’t take no for an answer is Williams, who insists that Clayton visit the place as he suspects that the authorities are enslaving the natives. As an advocate of anti-slavery sentiments, Clayton is finally persuaded to take the trip along with his wife, Jane. Unbeknownst to the 3 of them, what seems to be a journey back to homeland is actually a ploy to eliminate Tarzan.
The beautiful cinematography in the movie is evident from the start, with the African landscape brought to life throughout the journey of the envoys. Walking along the large sand dunes, all we could see was the magnificent stretch of the African desert, which begged us to visit them through the screens. The cinematographer also succeeded in conveying the mysterious aura of the jungle, as we could feel fear and happiness creep through, depending on the scenes.
Another good thing about the movie is that it tries to bring the native’s struggle in reclaiming their homeland to the attention of the audience. While there are movies dedicated to the plight of slaves in the past (read: “12 Years A Slave”), it’s refreshing to see blockbuster movies attempting to shed light on an issue that is ignored by many. Although the story line in “Legend of Tarzan” is fictional, we’re sure that many can relate to the battle.
However, the movie is not without its flaws. One major complaint is Margot Robbie’s Jane. You keep hoping for the character to be something more, but in the end, she’s just a defiant damsel-in-distress. Always waiting for another character to save her from situations, Robbie’s portrayal of Jane turned from feisty to annoying as the movie proceeds. This is despite her telling Captain Leon Rom, the main villain of the movie, that she’s not a helpless figure and would do whatever it takes to save herself.
There’s also another thing that left us puzzled: if Tarzan loved the jungle that much, why did he choose to leave it in the first place, and moreover, why did he not jump at the chance to return when he had it?
All in all, the movie was an enjoyable experience, and while we were not thoroughly impressed by it, we would say it exceeded expectations.
If you stepped in expecting a Disney-ish fairy tale movie, you will be sorely disappointed; as this is not a story for children, just like how the original book was meant for adults. It’s also a stretch to say that we’re wildlife experts now, but we walked out of the cinema knowing more about wild animals, their habitats, and lifestyles; and for that, we’re thankful for the movie.
“Legend of Tarzan” was released in cinemas worldwide on 30th July.