Justice is done to the legend that is Tarzan with this pleasurable slice of family entertainment – that is one of the biggest surprises of the summer so far.
After a season of underwhelming sequels and reboots, this commendable adventure yarn – even though far from flawless – gives the ‘Lord of the Jungle’ a modern day cinematic offering that breathes life into a potential new franchise.
Instead of simply starting off in the jungles of Africa – like the classics and the one with Bo Derek did (yep, that still lingers in the memory for many reasons) – this takes a different slant by seeing Tarzan now acclimatised to his new life in 1890s London as John ‘Lord Greystoke’ Clayton (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard), along with the woman he fell in love with and married, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie from the forthcoming Suicide Squad).
Much to the chagrin of Clayton/Tarzan, his wife accompanies him back to their previous homestead, and alas, there’s inevitably more to it than meets the eye, when the king’s right hand man Captain Rom (Django Unchained’s Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz) captures them both – with the greedy aim of turning Tarzan over to vengeful Chief Mbonga (Blood Diamond’s Oscar-nominee Djimon Hounsou) in return for the diamond treasures of the land.
But with Washington’s help, the ape-man escapes, and he sets upon a quest to save his beloved across the dangerous landscapes – and in the process stop the king’s unseen power-hungry plans (with the aid of Rom) to enslave an entire country that could make him the wealthiest man in the world.
And Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows director David Yates gets most things right with this amiable reimagining, starting with the spot-on casting of generally unknown Swedish actor Skarsgard – who gets a noteworthy balance between Clayton and Tarzan – taking Robbie’s Jane away from the stereotyped ‘damsel in distress’, and surrounding them with the competent support of Jackson and Waltz.
It is slightly hampered as an origin story – seen through intermittent ‘flashbacks’ that initially seem out of place but in the end kind of work – which leads to lack of action and pacing issues in the early stages, but when this slow-burner heats up it ends up as genuinely satisfying fare.
Throw in some decent computer-generated animal effects (which is still maybe just shy of recent Planet of the Apes reboots level), a couple of decent Tarzan battles – see the one with his ape ‘brother’ – and a very satisfying pay-off, it just about has all the ingredients for a family blockbuster that is at least a little bit different.
This is probably just a solid three-star film, but as Miller Time has been a bit ‘stingy’ in recent weeks – this gets an extra mark for offering a refreshingly original take on a forgotten legend who swings more than he falls.
Gavin Miller [youtube id=”dLmKio67pVQ” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Ben Chaplin & Jim Broadbent
Running Time: 1 Hr 50 Mins
Director: David Yates
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