Edgar Rice Burroughs' jungle hero swings into action again in The Legend of Tarzan, but this time he is righting real historical wrongs in a story that pits him against rapacious Belgian colonialists in the Congo of the 1880s.
Alexander Skarsgård’s John Clayton III, aka Tarzan, is back in England when we first meet him, a tea-drinking aristocrat leading a refined life with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). Flashbacks remind us of his African past as an orphaned baby raised by apes and his meeting and courtship of Jane.
Then comes an invitation from the Belgian king to tour the Congo. Samuel L Jackson’s American campaigner George Washington Williams (opens in new tab) (a real-life figure) urges him to go, hoping to use his celebrity to expose colonial atrocities. However, unbeknown to the two of them, it is really a ruse by Christoph Waltz’s scheming envoy to lure Tarzan into a trap
The Legend of Tarzan makes a fair stab at reviving Burroughs’ hero for the 21st Century. Skarsgård gives us rippling muscles and a furrowed brow to convey Tarzan’s strong and sensitive sides. Robbie has a feisty spark that prevents Jane from turning into a damsel in distress, even though Waltz’s slyly villainous Rom is trying to shove her into that box. And Jackson adds humour to his role as the film’s moral conscience.
Along the way there are bursts of dashing jungle action. Yet with Skarsgård’s hero more dependent on blatant CGI effects than jungle vines for his feats of derring-do, the action is never as engaging as one might have hoped.
Certificate 12. Runtime 135 mins . Director David Yates
The Legend of Tarzan is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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