Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.
Tarzan has always been a childhood film of mine, one that I cherish and adore. So, as you might be able to tell, I was over the moon with the news of its remastering from cartoon to modern day visuals. Even though there have been many incarnations of the Tarzan legend, none offered the dark, intense atmosphere this one mustered up.
It’s really refreshing to see such an adaptation stay true to the basic outline of Burrough’s novel, it’s original source. Instead of boring us as the audience with the facts of Tarzan’s past, we are presented with a number of flashbacks, all shining light on key events that made Tarzan, Tarzan. We learn that he was an infant left in the great African jungle where his parents unfortunately died, leaving him to become adopted by the great apes. Again, staying true to its origins. However, certain facts have been altered and re-made to create a more dramatic and murky storyline.
For example; instead of his parents dying by the actions of a wild leopard, his mother’s life is taken by jungle sickness and his fathers by the apes that ultimately take him in.
Where to start
Tarzan, now John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, thrived in the jungle environment, moving from the care of the apes to the care of the indigenous tribe nearby, where he met a beautiful Jane Porter (Margot Robbie). The story progresses to him becoming rescued by the British government and returned to England to claim his rightful place in society. This is where our story begins. Lord and Lady Greystoke (Tarzan and Jane) find themselves leaving their lives of 7 years to return to their childhood homes in the Congo. Discovering that things have changed for the worse, as a Belgian huntsman’s, Leon Rum (Christopher Waltz) has plans to colonize and take over the country with the help of imported mercenaries and his king’s reputation.
Tarzan (Skarsgard), is played as somewhat of a victim, feeling more at ease and comfortable with his hairy adopted family than those connected to his human heritage. We do not see the playful banter offered in previous versions of the story or even the loincloth, tree swinging scenes we all know and love. Instead, this Tarzan offers much more physically and emotionally, showing his true animal nature and brutishness.
The legend of Tarzan is unlike its counterparts for obvious reasons. One major reason being it seems to proper and serious cutting back largely on the fun and adventure side of the original novel. Which can be seen as both a re-freshening and unsatisfying aspect. I personally love the darker feel to an otherwise quite vibrant and colorful character list. Although, it has to be said that where the film did wonders for its special effects and CGI primates it lacked in the authenticity of the surrounding areas. This man-made jungle felt too pristine, clean and sterile just as it seemed in the novel and animated film. Which is not the same jungle needed for this film. Perhaps Stuart Craig took production design to a whole new level by making sure everything was in place and well-crafted.
This said David Yates does an amazing job of directing the film towards his vision, keeping the action flowing and the suspense at the ready. Just as Henry Braham delivers effortlessly fluid camera-work that gives off a seamless finish to each scene, especially during Tarzans well-known vine to vine moments.
The structure of the narrative paints the most interesting backstories as we are only given glimpses into Tarzans earlier years and upbringing, his struggle back to civilization as well as Janes own personal development. All aspects that are vitally important to chunking up and offering meat to the main storyline, which focuses on The Great White Hunter’s poaching, mining and slave trade operations. All important aspects that seem to be presented as wide and broad issues. Perhaps a little too broad for Tarzan’s world.
Arguably, none of the characters in the film are remotely believable or real but have been cast and executed extremely well. It’s important to remember that these characters have to match the intensity and strength Tarzans character brings to the film. It’s noted that the two lead roles have a surprisingly nice chemistry and appeal, as they are both great actors and both beautiful human beings, which is lucky.
I for one loved the support of our beloved Samuel L. Jackson as the real life, political activist and inspiring, George Washington Williams. It was an interesting mix to the already strong actor/ character dense plot. Although, I was a little confused as to why his character speaks in modern day phrases and tenses which in no way suit the time frame of the film. Never the less, a much-needed character.
As stated above I thought the storyline was intriguing and interesting, offering concepts I would never have imagined Tarzan exploring. The film engages its audience which consistently entertaining action scenes as well as moments of genuine peril. I was beyond impressed with the composure of Mr. S as he has made a lasting impression, showing his ability to adapt to such a demanding role. The swagger, the six pack, the sensitivity whilst also pushing a manly dominant package.
As most films, this has its flaws, but it is in no way a failure or let down to the legend that is Tarzan. If anything, it offers a more realistic and instinctual side of the story we never knew.