HOLLYWOOD—There have been plenty of adaptations chronicling the great legend that many Americans have come to know as Tarzan; a child raised in a jungle, who exhibits a livelihood similar to that of the animals around him. No people, I’m not referring to “The Jungle Book” that invaded theaters earlier this year, I’m talking about Warner Bros. “The Legend of Tarzan” starring Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie.
The movie is quite captivating as it delivers a somewhat polarizing tale of Tarzan, who eventually leaves the wild to live a life of normalcy with his wife Jane portrayed by Robbie. As a spectator, it’s a treat to see a tale woven where we learn about Tarzan’s upbringing after he is taken in by a family of Apes who raise him as if he is one of their own.
After Tarzan meets Jane, his life takes a drastic turn when the mother who raised him, Kala is killed by a hunter, whose father just happens to be Chief Mbonga (Djimon Honsou). Tarzan enraged by the heinous act murders the young hunter, unaware that Mbonga is his father. It’s imperative to highlight this tidbit of information as it plays a vital role in weaving the rest of the narrative of the movie.
While some would argue, “The Legend of Tarzan” is an examination of man and the wild, the film also tackles issues of politics and government. The African Congo is being controlled by two power titans: Belgium and the United Kingdom. With bankruptcy lurking about for the Belgian government they plan to seek out diamonds in Opar and leading that expedition is none other than Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz).
I must admit, Waltz inhibits the role of adversary so easily. He has a knack for portraying villains that easily get underneath the skin of a protagonist, as well as the spectator. Waltz is an actor who knows how to take a character to new horizons with nuanced behaviors (facial expressions, body movements and cadence in tone). Are we talking about a villain like he portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards?” No, but he successfully achieves the job the writers set out to accomplish.
Skarsgard is near perfection casting as the man, who embodies the personality of a beast, and he looks to have worked ferociously to obtain that near perfection body of the self-proclaimed ‘King of the Jungle.’ Robbie’s take on Jane is a bit different than what fans may remember from past movies and stories, of the damsel in distress. Rounding out the cast is Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams, who becomes an ally of Tarzan on his mission to rescue his wife Jane.
“The Legend of Tarzan” excels on two fronts: a narrative that is compelling and characters that step outside the typical box of what many have come to know about Tarzan himself. I went into this movie with low expectations and came out quite surprised by the character development, story and visual effects that are quite impressive to say the least. “The Legend of Tarzan” will indeed surprise those who venture into the theater with little to no expectations.