(director: David Yates; screenwriters: Adam Cozad, Craig Brewer; story, Craig Brewer & Cozad, based on the “Tarzan” stories created by Edgar Rice Burroughs; cinematographer: Henry Braham; editor: Mark Day; music: Rupert Gregson-Williams; Alexander Skarsgård (John Clayton/Tarzan), Christoph Waltz (Leon Rom), Samuel L. Jackson (George Washington Williams), Margot Robbie (Jane Clayton), Djimon Hounsou (Chief Mbonga), Sidney Ralitsoele (Wasimbu), Rory J. Saper (Tarzan at 18), Christian Stevens (Tarzan at 5); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Jerry Weintraub, David Barron, Alan Riche, Tony Ludwig; Warner Bros. Pictures; 2016)
“Can’t bridge the gap between the classic old- fashioned Tarzan and an imagined modern-day politically sensitive Tarzan.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British helmer David Yates (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince“/”Who is Jake Ellis?”) directs an ambitious upscale Tarzan story that can’t bridge the gap between the classic old- fashioned Tarzan and an imagined modern-day politically sensitive Tarzan. The story and script by Craig Brewer & Cozad is imagined from the “Tarzan” stories created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It tackles complex political subjects unlike all those old school Tarzan B films, as in its comic book plot it lays out its case against slavery, genocide, colonial exploitation of the natural riches and the clashes between the cultures of primitivism vs. civilization. Though sluggish and bogged down by a weak story, it’s visually pleasing, Skarsgård is a convincing ‘New Age’ sensitized Tarzan, John Waltz is good and creepy as the vile colonial villain, and its silly comedy is sometimes a welcome relief as delivered by the wisecracking Samuel L. Jackson. Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) in the 1880s is an adult gentleman living in London’s Greystoke Manor as John Clayton III, the fifth earl of Greystoke. He’s married to his jungle mate, the feisty feminist Jane (Margot Robbie). John for the last 10 years has let go of his life in the jungle, and lives life as an English lord. But duty as a humanitarian brings him back to the Congo, as ex-American soldier and current presidential envoy George Washington Williams (Samuel l. Jackson) urges him to help stop probable slavery in King Leopold II’s Belgium Congo. John, Jane and George trek to the Congo, as John has a deceptive invite to the Congo from the King. When in the Congo to visit the friendly village of Chief Wasimbu (Sidney Ralitsoele), Tarzan is hunted down by the King’s ruthless slave-trader representative to the Congo, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). He fails to bag Tarzan, but captures Jane. Rom is promised the diamonds if he brings Tarzan to Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), who seeks revenge on Tarzan for killing his baby boy. Tarzan will use all his skills to retrieve Jane, stop Rom’s plans for a slave empire, patch things up with the heart-broken native chief and prevent the diamonds from getting into the hands of the greedy bad boys. The animals are all digital, the story smacks of revisionist history and such an expansive story loses the simplistic romantic adventure story appeal the B films had for me.

Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie in The Legend of Tarzan (2016)