The Legend of Tarzan (David Yates, 2016): USA

Reviewed by Katrina Storton. Viewed in theater.

Director David Yates did not disappoint with his latest feature film, The Legend of Tarzan (2016). Based around the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Yates created a believable story line that falls well into the Tarzan book series (1912-1995, the film falls in line roughly around book 4) and the movie/TV serials. The plot covers Jane and Tarzan in England, married and trying to have a child, long after the initial meet most of us know the tale of (although there are flashbacks of how Tarzan and Jane met). Tarzan (or as he likes to be called by his birth name, John Clayton II) and Jane return home to the Congo to investigate the slavery, railroad construction and minerals extraction caused by the Belgian government and more precisely King Leopold II.

I am quite sure many of you are fond of Disney’s version of the Tarzan story. For many of us 90s babies, Disney films were our childhood and seeing so many remakes now can be exciting while some can be disconcerting. The Legend of Tarzan is nothing like the Disney version. Do not compare it to other recent live action films being made (Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, etc). It is also not the version most of us know, the one that had been altered for children’s consumption with talking animals, consisted of overlooked details, and laced with the upbeat music of the legendary Phil Collins (Genesis). Yates and Warner Brothers took a great approach to this new Tarzan film that is more in line with Edgar Rice Burroughs’s series. The Legend of Tarzan is definitely more for adults (violence, sex scenes, profanity, very layered and in-depth plot) than children but that isn’t to say young kids won’t enjoy the story for what it is, I have to admit the vine swinging scenes are pretty amazing and the jokes as well as the violent politics of the film will go well over most children’s heads. PG-13 is a good rating for this film but the violence was intense at times. If David Yates had kept in the multiple sex scenes between Jane and Tarzan rather than only one, then the film would have definitely been R rated.

The Legend of Tarzan had amazing cinematography for the entire duration of the film. The movie was mostly filmed on location in England and Africa which brought a great level of immersion to the film. The vine swinging scenes were also filmed on location (surprising to me) but had some help from CGI. The scenery is beautiful, just absolutely breathtaking at times. The animals in the film, a lot of them trained and a lot of the CGI, brought a whole other level to the quality of the film.

Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson and Margot Robbie did a wonderful job getting into their characters. Margot Robbie portrayed a headstrong Jane who could save herself, she is no typical damsel in distress and not to mention Alexander endured a strenuous 9 months of a chicken breast and broccoli strict diet to achieve his impeccable Tarzan physique. The romantic tension between Tarzan and Jane can certainly be felt during every scene they have together and Samuel Jackson brought a much needed dash to comedy to the film.

My only complaints during the film is a few chats that the characters had, the camera would move in a circle as the conversation goes back and forth. By the third turn my group and I all felt nauseous. A few scenes with Tarzan and Jane were also obscenely cheesy, almost as though the romance in the film was an afterthought and David Yates just decided to use some clichés to fill in the gaps. It’s hard for me to see the faults in any film but these stood out the most.

Nevertheless, a great film and most definitely worth watching. It can be easily enjoyed for those new to Tarzan, those who grew up on the books, those who grew up on the serials and those who grew up on the Disney versions.

I suggest watching it in theaters, particularly in Cinemark XD (if able) for a full immersion effect.

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