Jungle adventures seem to be all the rage this year, what with the live-action remake of The Jungle Book, and now The Legend of Tarzan, a surprisingly enjoyable, CGI-enhanced take on Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ venerable Lord of the Apes from four-time Harry Potter-flick helmer David Yates.
Eight years after John Clayton III (Alexander Skarsgard) returned home to England from Africa, where he was raised by apes following his parents’ deaths, he and now-wife Jane (Margot Robbie) return there to help free Congolese citizens from Belgian enslavement, and tangle with a Belgian envoy (Christoph Waltz) in desperate need of diamonds.
His time on the Potter films obviously taught Yates how to use effects effectively, as they truly help elevate the story here, and only occasionally call any real attention to themselves (like during the finale). This proves crucial with the apes with whom Tarzan interacts — we forget they’re CGI creations, and believe in them as characters.
It helps, too, that the film is a continuation of Tarzan’s story versus just another version of his origin tale (though we do discover how Tarzan and Jane met via some nicely done, smartly interspersed flashbacks). He gets to do more than just swing through the jungle — he takes out a train car full of Belgian soldiers, fights some apes, causes a wildebeest stampede and battles a tribal leader (Djimon Hounsou).
Yates imbues it all with amusement and warmth and genuine jungle-adventure spirit (some of the action sequences may be a mite too intense for young ‘uns), receiving a solid assist from Rupert Gregson-Williams‘ rousing score. He gets another one from Skarsgard, who certainly fits the part physically (via an impressively ripped torso and his being 6-foot-4), but also lends this Lord some humanity and humility.
Robbie (Focus, Suicide Squad) makes a very appealing Jane, and Yates does his heroic best not to make her a typical damsel (she even spits the word at Waltz), but she still spends too long literally tied up. Waltz can do villains in his sleep, but manages to make this one nicely hissable. Kudos galore, however, to Samuel L. Jackson, whom we seem to take for granted. As the American envoy who accompanies Tarzan and Jane on their adventure, he creates perhaps the most interesting, and relatable, character in the film. And he has hair! – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 10/11/16