After years of absence from the jungle, John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgard), the man once known as the hero Tarzan, returns to Africa on a diplomatic mission for the Crown. Joining forces with American soldier and explorer George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), Clayton uncovers the harsh realities of the Congo under the rule of King Leopold of Belgium. But his discoveries lead to the kidnapping of his beloved wife Jane (Margot Robbie) by the vicious mercenary leader Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), and Clayton is forced to return to his savage nature.
In a tale of high adventure and wild romance, Tarzan of the Apes lives again thanks to the genius and passion of director David Yates. Working from the idea that audiences know the basic history of Tarzan, Yates takes his story in a different direction, focusing on his central character’s return to nature, and rediscovery of his inner savage as he fights to save the ones he loves.
Holding his own on the big screen as Lord John Clayton/Tarzan is Alexander Skarsgard, whose physical commitment to the character is clear to see. Skarsgard truly gives his all as this classic hero, and his transformation from mere mortal to jungle beast (which has been well documented) definitely shows on screen. Skarsgard is the truest representation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s character that I’ve ever witnessed, and he balances an animalist strength with grace and agility as he swings through the jungle. But while his physical skills are outstanding, it is his handling of the Tarzan’s emotional core that really impresses. He crafts the presence of a man who is lost between two worlds and racked by the pain of not belonging.
Joining Skarsgard’s Tarzan in his adventures is Margot Robbie as his beloved wife Jane Porter. But this is not the Jane of yesteryear, and this fiery redhead is no damsel in distress. Pragmatic, feisty, sharp, quick-witted and sassy, Robbie’s Jane is a fireball who throws back quick one-liners and gives as good as she gets, utilising her unique knowledge of the jungle to bring out the worst fears in her captors. Whether playing up the seriousness of her character’s kidnapping or the love she has for Tarzan, Robbie is completely committed to the character, and completely steals every scene she’s in.
Joining these two phenomenal young talents is Hollywood legend Samuel L. Jackson, who has plenty of fun as true life explorer and adventurer George Washington Williams. Williams uses Tarzan’s mission to the jungle as a way to right wrongs and uncover the misdeeds of greed and corruption of a foreign power. Giving both support and wisdom, Jackson’s adventurer provides the audience with a deeper insight into the character of Clayton as he transitions back to the man he once was as Tarzan, and he’s also first into every action scene with his own set of big guns.
Tarzan is always one to have a worthy adversary, and it doesn’t get much better than Christoph Waltz as the disturbing Captain Leon Rom, a mercenary with his own agenda and whose nastiness knows no bounds. Waltz definitely applies considerable creep factor in his face-to-face meetings with Jane, and his total lack of empathy for human life is chilling to watch.
The Legend of Tarzan combines amazing practical effects and CGI to bring to life the untamed wilds of the jungle, and the great apes who rule it. Skarsgard’s interactions with his ape family are beautiful to watch, and his challenge for leadership of the pack makes for a brutal action set piece. Praise must also be given to Henry Braham’s exquisite cinematography, which captures the rich colours and vast scale of the jungles of the Congo. Audiences will find themselves getting lost in the grandness of the sights that appear in front of them.
With a superb story, great characters, epic action and amazing visuals, The Legend of Tarzan is a film experience that will have you gripped from beginning to end.
Image: Roadshow Films