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Legend of Tarzan, The (3D)


Stars: Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel L Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, Christoph Waltz, Ben Chaplin, Simon Russell Beale, Yule Masiteng

Director: David Yates

Never underestimate the power of the movies to create completely convincing fables.

I saw wild animals and jungles ad lib while growing up in Kenya and yet believed everything Hollywood had created for Tarzan films, including invented African languages (“Ungawa!”) and, memorably, the legendary town of “Kairobi” which, like the Ape Man’s unique Africa (usually filmed in California) had been created for Tarzan movies.

1951’s Tarzan’s Peril was the first Ape Man movie that used location shooting in Kenya, while Gordon Scott (who made his tree-swinging debut among Southern California locations in Harold Schuster’s Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle in 1955) made it to East Africa for his next loin-cloth extravaganza, 1957’s Tarzan and the Lost Safari.

Nowadays special effects largely eliminate the need for movies to spend too much expensive time on location.

Apart from brief establishing shots of Togo which stands in for the 19th century Colonial Belgian Congo, The Legend of Tarzan’s adrenaline-driven African adventures were filmed in Wales, Hertfordshire and Warner’s English Leavesden studios.

Special effects effectively create the animal-infested jungles that spawned the celebrated swinger, here portrayed in fine physical form as an adult by Alexander (“I grew up running on all fours”) Skarsgard.

We are treated to Tarzan’s traditional backstory - growing up nurtured by apes in the jungles of Colonial Congo - and meet him as the adult Lord Greystoke who is living the aristocratic English life with his wife Margot Robbie in their large country mansion.

But he soon resumes his heroic jungle high jinks when he returns to the Congo as a trade emissary and faces danger and death battling evil Belgian Christoph Waltz’s murderous exploitation of the enslaved locals…

Skarsgard swings high, makes his muscle-man mark (wearing trousers rather than the traditional loincloth) and hits hard among the impressively special effects-created trees and the wild life – the spectacular climactic animal attack on the Bad Guys’ ship is memorably replete with just about every kind of beast apart from Lassie.

David Yates’ direction makes excellent use of the plentiful action and (inventively created) locale and elicits exactly the kind of larger-than-life acting his story requires from Skarsgard and Waltz while reducing Robbie and Samuel L Jackson (in basically a stooge role) to effective enough ciphers to help advance the narrative.

I even learned something: Ants, states Tarzan, “taste like bacon” after sampling one of the insects that have been used to bite his wound together in the form of organic stitches.

Jackson’s comment “Ain’t this a helluva day?” neatly sums up an audience friendly, intellect-low reboot. Any whining you hear is probably Edgar Rice Burroughs spinning in his grave.

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Warner. Colour.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 Jul 2016