Film review: The Legend of Tarzan

Legend of Tarzan

The latest arrival of one of cinema’s most revisited characters is here and, with plenty to compare it to, will this turn out to be a swing and a miss or a chest beating success?

The Congo sets the scene for the story, as it is divided and controlled by colonial nations. In the grip of a Dutch king who is clutching at straws to control his lands, Tarzan’s homelands are under threat. As John Clayton III or Lord Greystone, we see a more civilized side to Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) where he is reluctant to return to the wild and put his wife, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), in danger. However, once enlightened by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), about the atrocities taking place, he has little choice but to return.

The political machinations and social geopolitics make for a believable backdrop, however, this addition to the Tarzan story is clearly directed more at the adult audience. I don’t see this as negative but, as a parent, you might find much of the film very dry for the younger audience. Tarzan’s interactions with the animals and his motivations are also much less of a fairy tale, the film focusing more on body language and mimicking animal calls. As a result, the story takes on an added dimension of reality and depth which brings it in line with a more modern cinema audience. This modernization is also present in the depiction of Jane, who is very much her own woman – something that is always a benefit for the story and empathetic characters.

Directed by David Yates, who is known for his input in the Harry Potter series, the film is visually engaging. The dark and humid African jungles are brought to life in a very stylised fashion, showing a more dangerous and less happy-go-lucky jungle despite all its beauty. The power of nature is displayed to great effect, a fact that is not lost on Tarzan, who may be nature’s second son but is certainly not all-powerful. The fight scenes are well choreographed and show the individual traits of the characters well; Leon Rom (Christopher Waltz) is an enigmatic sociopath who often acts in a surprising way to achieve his victories; Tarzan uses the environment, animals, and ape-like pounding to stay in keeping with his character.

Using a much more chilling and guttural tone, the sound of Tarzan’s war call has much more impact on the audience and the other characters. Its powerful, wild inflections bring reassurance to characters in distress, nervousness to his foes, and excitement to the audience. The sound recording in general melds well with the film at all times. Moments like Tarzan’s call stand out and, for the most part, the soundtrack takes a solid supporting role.

The Legend of Tarzan brings a new full-blooded depth to the story, exploring new areas of the characters, story, and geography. While not perfect, there is much to praise and it’s definitely a good addition to the series. With more adult undertones the film may alienate some of its audience base, but I feel this was a risk worth taking – so many character reboots risk a rehashed formula, making this a refreshing change.


Author: Joe, Bath store