“The Legend of Tarzan”
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for action, violence, sensuality and brief crude dialogue
Running time: 109 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
Tarzan became a sensation soon after his initial introduction to the world via pulp magazines published in 1912. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the character proved to be such an enduring cultural icon that he would become the subject of a series of best-selling novels, 200+ movies and a long line of consumer products.
According to the lore spun by Burroughs, Tarzan, aka John Clayton, was the son of a couple of British aristocrats who perished in Africa while the boy was still an infant. The baby was subsequently raised by apes in the wild where he became so in tune with nature that he learned to speak the language of all the beasts residing there.
Moreover, as the legendary “Lord of the Jungle,” he not only exercised dominion over the animal kingdom but over cannibalistic tribes eager to rape white women and to boil missionaries in a big pot. Such insensitive portrayals of Africans as evil and uncivilized eventually became controversial in more enlightened times. And after decades of uncritical appeal, Tarzan finally witnessed a sharp decline in popularity.
Now, for the first time this millennium, he’s been brought back to the big screen. Directed by David Yates (Harry Potter 5, 6, 7 and 8), The Legend of Tarzan features a more politically-correct version of the controversial character.
Set in 1884, the film stars Alexander Skarsgard in the title role as well as Samuel L. Jackson as his sophisticated sidekick, Dr. George Washington Williams. The American doctor was ostensibly shoehorned into the story to offset the relatively-primitive image of the indigenous black folks.
At the point of departure, we find Tarzan and wife Jane (Margot Robbie) living in the lap of luxury in London as Lord and Lady Greystoke. It’s apparently been ages since Tarzan has even set foot on the dark continent.
He leaps at the chance to return to the Congo, when invited by Parliament to serve as a trade emissary. What Tarzan doesn’t know is that he is merely a pawn in a plot masterminded by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a diabolical villain dealing in blood diamonds.
Upon arriving, it doesn’t take long for Tarzan to revert from a proper gent to a feral vine swinger who can summon a thundering herd of elephants with that distinctive yell. Aaaaaaaargh… Aaaaaaaaarghaaaah… Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!