The Legend of Tarzan, with Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L Jackson, Christoph Waltz and Djimon Hounsou. Directed by David Yates.
IT was time for a Tarzan remake, and the latest does justice to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most famous creation.
The last big screen version that comes to mind is Greystoke, in which the lord of the apes had Christopher Lambert’s French accent, but which was otherwise an appreciated rendering in its time.
Thankfully, these days we have superb CGI to portray the apes and other animals of the Congo, unlike the men in gorilla suits in Greystoke.
As is the wont of contemporary filmmakers, there is a degree of modern moralistic projection back onto the past in The Legend of Tarzan, of viewing things not quite in the same way the people of that era would have seen them.
But what remains authentic is Tarzan’s embodiment of heroism and justice, much like that other pulp character The Phantom.
The baddies in this story are clearly the colonial Belgians, who are pillaging the land on a massive scale, under the authority of King Leopold II, who owes a debt to the British Empire.
We only hear of Leopold and do not see him, but his wishes are apparently carried out by his emissary Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a psychopath in search of diamonds at the mythical enclave of Opar.
We meet Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) when he is already living in England, having been brought from the jungle to civilisation. Speaking like a true English gentleman, he is now lord of the manor after inheriting his land and title from his late father.
A world away from his savage past, he is no longer Tarzan but John Clayton, married to Jane (Margot Robbie) and with no desire to return to Africa.
But he is persuaded to by an American diplomat (Samuel L Jackson), who tells him how his friends have been brutalised and enslaved by the Belgians.
We see Tarzan’s origins in flashback, the death of his parents and his adoption by a nurturing mother ape. The implausibility of gorilla-like apes swinging through the trees is cleverly explained by the uniqueness of this ape species, called Mangani.
So Tarzan returns and encounters old friends and enemies in his quest for justice, which becomes personal when Jane is involved. No wilting daisy, Jane proves to be a strong and resourceful woman.
It brings a smile to one’s face to hear that old familiar throaty yell from the jungle.