2016 Summer Movie Review: The Legend of Tarzan


Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) and George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) go out to rescue Jane in David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan.

When someone brings up Tarzan, you might think of the original book by Edgar Rice Burroughs from 1900s. Maybe you have seen the films starring Johnny Weissmuller from the 1930s with his famous cry, or—for millennials; myself included—have grown up with the 1999 Disney animated film with Phil Collins providing the soundtrack.

David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) brings back the familiar face in The Legend of Tarzan. It’s not just an origin story. Compared to other versions, it follows closely to Burroughs’ source material. Yates puts some serious effort into this grand adventure for a modern audience, but it left me wanting more.

Years after living in the African jungles for most of his life, John Clayton III, or Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) leaves his gorilla family behind to live in a gorgeous estate in England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). When they enter the Congo once again, they encounter Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who works under King Leopold of Belgium. He comes up with a scheme to capture John and Jane to exchange for diamonds. With the help from George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), John swings into action to save his wife from Rom.

Yates brings his magnificent vision that made his final two Harry Potter films such an epic conclusion. The panoramic shots of Africa (featuring realistic computer-generated animals) give the feeling that the audience is in for quite an adventure. While the movie is visually stunning, most of its narrative takes itself way too seriously; not to mention Tarzan’s origins feeling a bit rushed.

With Skarsgård leading a solid cast with his massive physique and warm emotion, they aren’t put in a lot of depth. Waltz’s portrayal of Rom is nothing but your stereotypical villain. Robbie’s Jane is more independent than in the other versions. As real-life George Washington Williams, Jackson provides the film’s wit and energy that most of the film lacks. Nevertheless, thanks to its nifty visuals, heart-pounding action, and sheer beauty, The Legend of Tarzan is a good attempt bringing the rope-swinging hero back to the silver screen.