Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie and Samuel L. Jackson star in The Legend of Tarzan, which picks up after the well known adventures of Tarzan.
Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) and Jane (Margot Robbie), aka Lord John and Lady Jane Clayton are married and living at his family’s ancestral home in England. They are sent a royal invitation to come back to the Congo at the behest of the bankrupt King of Belgium. However, John is reluctant to return to Africa. He doesn’t want to face the danger of the Congo and the life he left behind with Jane. However, he’s convinced to go by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a former civil war soldier turned American operative. Williams believes that the King is trying to take over the Congo by enslaving its people and mining resources. Jane is also excited about returning to the place where she grew up.
The invitation was actually sent by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who is a soldier in the Belgium army. He has come up with the plan that the Belgians are following in order to restore the status of the bankrupt empire. Williams was right about the people being enslaved and resources being taken. What they don’t know is that Tarzan is at the center of the plan. Rom was sent by the king to retrieve some diamonds from Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou). Mbonga agrees to hand over the diamonds on the condition that Rom delivers Tarzan to him. Mbonga carries a grudge against Tarzan because Tarzan killed his only son in retribution for the boy killing the primate that acted as his mother.
Tarzan and Jane arrive in the Congo with Williams in tow, and he is immediately amazed by Tarzan’s bond with the animals and people of Africa. The group returns to the tribe where Jane grew up, but they are soon attacked by Rom and his men. They capture Tarzan and Jane, but Williams is able to get Tarzan free. Rom takes Jane in an attempt to lure Tarzan to Mbonga and, of course, Tarzan follows him across the Congo to get her back. Along the way, Tarzan and Williams will have to deal with the elements, some of Tarzan’s former ape family, and Mbonga’s tribe. By the end, Williams gets the proof that he needs to expose Belgium’s slave trade and Tarzan is left to face off against Rom to get Jane back.
What did I think?
Going into this movie, I didn’t realize that Margot Robbie or Samuel L. Jackson were in this movie. I also didn’t realize that this would be a sequel to the more well known story of Tarzan. All of that combined to make a movie that was a lot better (or at least, different) than I expected it to be. It felt really out of place to have the 67 year old Jackson trying to keep up with the 39 year old Skarsgard (who was in exquisite shape for this movie) as he ran through the jungle. Despite that, he was responsible for almost every comedic moment in the movie. There weren’t a lot, but they were effective when they happened. Margot Robbie, on the other hand, completely fit into this movie. The movie went out of their way to make her more of Tarzan’s partner than just her damsel in distress and I think Robbie pulled it off perfectly. Christoph Waltz was also a surprise for me, but I don’t think he was really able to add as much to the movie. There just wasn’t much time for Waltz to do very much as the villain. He had a couple of cool moments using the spider silk rosserie he carried as a weapon. Otherwise, he was relegated to just the standard, kidnap the girl and run role.
With a running time of under 2 hours (1 hr 50 min) this movie doesn’t have a lot of extra space in it. Unfortunately, they spend too much of it doing flashbacks to the origin of Tarzan. It’s kind of confusing that they spend so much time on the flashbacks because the opening act of the movie feels like it almost requires the viewer to be familiar with Tarzan already. It felt like the time would’ve been better managed if all the flashbacks were lumped into one section of the movie. Instead, they cut in and out and take away time from the present day plot. The other disappointing element of the movie was the action scenes, specifically the fights. The actual action of Tarzan running around the jungle was pretty smooth considering that a lot of it was CG. Where things weren’t as good was anytime there was an actual fight with a human being. Tarzan’s fight with his brother ape seemed well choreographed and detailed. For some reason, the fights with human beings seemed like they were going out of their way to not actually show any punches or kicks being actually being thrown. Instead, it’s a lot of the camera jumping around and only catching the beginning or end of an actual attack.
Overall, I’d have to say that this movie wasn’t the trainwreck that I expected it to be. The movie has good leads and a few cool moments. However, it’s still on the lower end of movies that I’ve seen this year. Ultimately, I think it will end up going down as just another unnecessary use of an existing property.
The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
- Skarsgard looks great as Tarzan
- Robbie portrays a very spirited Jane
- Samuel L. Jackson's character adds some unexpected levity to the film
- The movie seems to shift a lot between expecting you to know the story of Tarzan and then trying to spoon feed it to you
- The entirety of the plot feels rushed and, overall predictable
- Christoph Waltz's character feels like he never measure up to the threat he should present