It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan (Skarsgård) left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Robbie) at his side. Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Leon Rom (Waltz). But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash. (from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Tarzan is one of the many iconic characters that have been making their way back to the big screen as of late. It was only 3 years ago that the character was last featured in a movie, 2013's simply titled animated film, Tarzan. But the last real significant appearance of the vine-swinging hero was 1999's Disney animated feature film. And with this summer's live action remake of Disney's animated The Jungle Book, it seems like deja vu to now have a live action take on Tarzan in the same summer. However, while Warner Bros. is giving audiences yet another take on the character, they make some efforts to do things a little differently, with The Legend of Tarzan actually serving as somewhat of a sequel than a complete reboot.
With Man of Steel being the studio's reboot of the Superman storyline (and a start to the DC Comics Cinematic Universe), that film opened more so in the present and featured frequent flashbacks that told Superman's origin in brief moments scattered throughout the film. The Legend of Tarzan takes the same approach in many ways, opening years after Tarzan had left Africa and settled down with his wife Jane in England. The plot is rooted in a period of history in the 1890s where slaves were used to mine rubber, and Tarzan is coaxed to going back to Africa to look into what is going on at a mining facility. Leon Rom, played by Christoph Waltz, is the main antagonist here, who struck a deal with Chief Mbonga (played by Djimon Hounsou) to hunt down Tarzan and bring him in. Rom proves to be as ruthless as he is effective, and Tarzan is forced to swing into action once again.
I'm unfamiliar with Alexander Skarsgård's work, and although he came off to me originally as a bargain-bin, B-movie choice to play the titular role, he gets the job done here as Tarzan. They clearly are going for a more grounded and realistic Tarzan this time around (even showing how he grew up in the jungle naked and not in a loin cloth like many of his predecessors did), and Skarsgård gives the character a rounded emotional performance that's rather believable, although he seems to be lacking the kind of charm to really make the character stand out. Margot Robbie (who's become most known for her recent portrayal of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad), is fantastic here as Jane, although she's given some really odd (and cheesy) dialog at times that feels out of place or just plain poorly written. Waltz is pretty reliable in any role, and he does well as the foil for Tarzan, even if it's more as a cerebral villain than a physical one. Samuel L. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, who serves as a friend for Tarzan, but he seems to see-saw between fitting right in and sticking out like a sore thumb. For the most part, however, the cast works more often than not, and it gets the story told effectively enough, even if the movie never really reaches the heights it's going for.
The content of the film to take note of is mostly violence, with Rom's soldiers often killing natives or animals, and Tarzan having to fight soldiers bare-handed or wrestle a large gorilla nearly to death. The movie isn't very graphic or gory, but when Tarzan does sustain a gorilla bite to the shoulder, the next scene shows Williams putting live ants into the wound on Tarzan's shoulder (but why?!). Tarzan also proceeds to eat some of them as well. The sexual content is pretty minor, with Jane and Tarzan - as a married couple - kissing passionately and moving to the bed, to then be shown sleeping under the covers together afterwards. Tarzan is also frequently naked in the flashbacks, as a little boy and as a young man, but we are never shown explicit nudity; it's mostly just hinted at. The language isn't too bad, but what is spoken (as you can imagine) is almost exclusively by Samuel L. Jackson. This includes just 1 "S" word, some "h*ll," "d*mn" and the "a" word, and a couple uses of blasphemy.
The Blu-Ray 3D is pretty good for its kind. It's certainly not the best 3D I've seen on disc, but Yates' camera angles seem to lend to the format to give it added depth. A few dramatic angles, which feel mostly present to take advantage of the 3D, feel out of place for this kind of period story, though. For the most part, I wouldn't say this is a movie that needs to be experienced in 3D.
If we hadn't just received the wonderful update of The Jungle Book before it, The Legend of Tarzan might be seen as better, but stacked up against Jon Favreau's charming epic, David Yates's modern take on the other hero raised by animals in the jungle just seems to lack. It's certainly entertaining and has its moments--especially with its unique way of telling this particular character's story, but all in all, The Legend of Tarzan doesn't quite hit the mark.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 10/9/16)
Tarzan Reborn (15:10) gives us some history of the character through cinematic history, as well as the personal experiences of the cast and crew with the character. This featurette also touches on Alexander's training to become the character, as well as him offering up a different take on character. It also talks about how this story intentionally inserts him into a real period in our history.
Battles and Bare-Knuckled Brawls is broken up into 3 parts: Tarzan vs Akut, Boma Stampede, and the Train Ambush. For the fight with Akut (5:15), we see some great on-set footage that shows how the gorillas were created by filming humans in motion capture fat suits. For the Boma Stampede (4:53), they focus on the film's big finale. It covers the filming of live sets, creating a lot of digital accompaniment for those live action pieces and merging live actors with digital animals for the stampede. They talk about studying real wildebeests for the film and making them look as real as possible. The director also talks about building and blowing up a real pier for the film, as well as blowing up a real boat, and using digital effects to enhance the footage. Finally, for the Train Ambush (4:57), they go through the various stages of the ambush in shooting digitally or on a sound stage, and then shooting Alexander running through a bluescreen room to then fill in the giant tree branches digitally.
Tarzan and Jane's Unfailing Love (6:01) - Here they talk about this film being a modern retelling of their story, and how Jane is much stronger here than in the older films when she was just a damsel in distress.
Creating the Virtual Jungle (15:16) - And here is where it's revealed... that the actors never actually shot in Africa. The entire film was shot in London. Some live plates and footage were shot on location in Africa, but that was used for the backdrop via green screen for scenes where Tarzan was swinging through the trees or the ferry was drifting down the rivier. It's pretty impressive what they accomplished.
Gabon to the Big Screen (2:28) - Ironically, they show Waltz sitting in front of a field of tall grass as he talks about how big the production is and what it's like to be on such a massive set, and the featurette talks about bringing Gabon, Africa to the big screen -- which is funny since the film wasn't shot in Africa.
Stop Ivory (1:30) - The previous featurette touches briefly on "Stop Ivory," leading into this one, a spot where Alexander and Margot urge people to support the effort to save the endangered African elephants.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 10/9/16)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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