I thoroughly enjoyed this somewhat lightweight movie. It was a different take on the Tarzan story; a more adult version. Clearly, it was filmed on location, and the African settings were breathtaking. I’m going to have to make a trip to the Congo…and I’d be honored to assume a submissive pose to a gorilla troop (heads out of the gutter, folks). The UK settings were lush too. Everything looked just great.
Some good stuff: The night scene with the elephants really stands out — simply beautiful. It made for a horrible juxtaposition with the train barrels full of ivory tusks. We’re barbarians. Also, making slaves out of everyone in Africa? More barbarism. The more so in these cases because taking slaves and driving animals to extinction is historical fact. It underscores our dual nature: we are capable both of horrendous acts and feats of selfless compassion.
I loved how “John” (Tarzan’s Christian name) interacted with, well, everything in Africa. He’s a friend to the native tribes, lions, wildebeests, ostriches, alligators, and of course, gorillas. Although he’s no friend to army ants — those he uses as first aid and snacks. (Hey, don’t knock it. I’ve eaten ants, and contrary to Tarzan’s comment about bacon, they actually taste like Sweet Tarts. Long story. Give them a try, if you dare, but pop off the ant heads first so they don’t bite your tongue.)_
I’m not sure if he’s a friend to hippos. I think there was a lost opportunity there. You’ll see what I mean if you pay attention. They set up the hippos for a payoff that, weirdly, alligators fulfilled. This is a minor quibble.
Jane gets her own little “Gandalf” scene with a blue butterfly (recall Gandalf with the moth on top of Orthanc). And she can happily handle herself perfectly well in the jungle, thank you. She’s no damsel in distress, as she pointedly tells the bad guy.
The lead characters did a fine job, although Jane stole every scene with her affable, brave, and amusing portrayal. She even outdid Samuel L Jackson — no mean feat. Tarzan was stuck playing the straight man, but he pulled off what could have been a very dorky role, with likable aplomb. Jackson, as George (of the jungle?) provided the most laughs, and was also a receptacle for exposition. Any film with a lot of backstory needs a character who things must be explained to. It worked.
Much of the narrative is told in flashback style. I think they handled it deftly, for the most part — a straight origin story would have been boring, and the flashbacks were restrained and appropriate. My main problem is that it’s hard to tell the flashback scenes from the current timeline in many places. Using a trick, like adding sepia tone, or a blue tinge, would have helped greatly. Or a different length of hair for Tarzan and Jane. Both my mother and I were confused a few times.
The climax was thoroughly enjoyable, albeit predicable. I’m not going to hold predictability against the film. It’s what we’d expect in a story about Tarzan. He’s not “King of the Jungle” for nothing.
This 2016 movie qualifies as a Bladder Buster, at 2 &1/2 hours. Just saying. Since you’ll be watching this at home, you probably won’t need Peetimes (although we have three).
Overall Recommendation: This is a nice home movie to watch. The violence isn’t that graphic, the good guys win, and the setting is so damned pretty. Harry Potter Director David Yates pulled off a new take on the Tarzan story, and you’ll feel good when it’s through. Don’t expect an epic tale and you’ll have a good time.
Movie Grade: B-
Read RunPee’s Original Review of The Legend of Tarzan.
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)