Reviewed by: Rev. Bryan Griem
|Featuring:|| Alexander Skarsgård … Tarzan
Margot Robbie … Jane Porter
Samuel L. Jackson … George Washington Williams
Ella Purnell … Young Jane Body Double
Christoph Waltz … Captain Rom
Djimon Hounsou … Chief Mbonga
Jim Broadbent …
Casper Crump … Captain Kerchover
|Director:||David Yates—“Hary Potter…” franchise|
|Producer:||Dark Horse Entertainment
Jerry Weintraub Productions
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
I sort of hoped the famous Johnny Weissmuller “Tarzan Yell” would be heard in this movie, but that was a thing of long ago, and this isn’t his movie, yet the makers still put in a similar, albeit more rugged version. I wasn’t really disappointed.
This rendition of Tarzan provides much of the classic story’s background in very quick fashion, about how baby Tarzan came to be the white ape and then returned to civilization. Of course now, everyone wants Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) to go back into the wild for a new adventure; some with very altruistic concerns, like those of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson’s character) and some with greed-filled and wicked reasons, like those of murderous Captain Rom (Christoph Waltz). Tarzan obviously goes back, and with him goes his lovely and also jungle-tough wife, Jane (played by Margot Robbie).
As we should expect, the bad guys get very bad, and like any superhero, Tarzan saves the world from them, or at least, the Congo. As an audience member, I left feeling pretty good about things, when all was said and done. By the way, there is no post-credits scene at the end, so you don’t have to sit there wondering and wasting time, just leave and go refill your $8 tub of popcorn on your way out. I heard someone remark that this movie was like Terminator set in the jungle, but it is not like that. It is more like a mash-up of “Jurassic Park,” “Avatar,” and “Spider-Man.” If you see this film, all three of those movies will immediately come to mind, as certain scenes look almost exactly the same. And while I noticed this, it seemed to fit just fine; it was simply a reuse of apropos story features, even if the laws of physics get trampled pretty well. Gorillas are probably ten to twenty times stronger than human beings, yet Tarzan is punching it out with them, and he’s also swinging on vines that just go on forever without end.
The construct of Tarzan and Jane is reminiscent of the pre-fall Adam and Eve, where man and woman are perfectly paired, and both live with animals in perfect harmony. This story obviously takes place long after the fall of our first parents, and so the harmony seen between man and beast is brutally won or lost, as is that of man and fellow man. At least Tarzan and Jane are not presented as dysfunctional. That’s kind of nice, although some may find their momentary affections inappropriate for viewing. Suffice to say, it is little more than brief, passionate kissing, and a few seconds of growing desire before what we perceive is the aftermath of lovemaking. This is supposed to be a married couple, and there did not appear to me to be anything especially inappropriate or scintillating, so nobody’s sex radar should be disturbed much here.
While the movie is a Victorian period piece, the characters are rather modern, as is some of the content. Jane is not a helpless woman needing a Tarzan to save her, except that she is his wife, and he does. Tarzan is not an average guy, or a somewhat portly Weissmuller, he’s a very cut gym-rat with abs, and the natives are also pumping iron backstage, no doubt. I might add that Christoph Waltz is typecast as the cruel nerd with power that we’ve seen in his other roles (think “Inglorious Basterds”). Speaking of that other movie he was in, the objectionable word in the title finds its way into “The Legend of Tarzan,” and a couple of other words that do double duty as both appropriate and inappropriate terminology—depending on the circumstance—are also heard. On top of that, “God” is exclaimed (plus OMG and “Christ Almighty,” “damn” (2) as an expletive, “hell” (2), and the word used for excrement that people blurt when in a bad situation. If you blink you’ll miss them. The modern F-bomb is not used (thankfully), but just about all of what could be perceived as remotely profane gets uttered by Samuel L. Jackson (big surprise!).
As for violence, it’s there in spades—from armed combat, to point blank murder, to animal aggression, and even some brief butchering. You’ll see blood, beatings, stitches, trampling, and the like. There are also visual mentions of man’s inhumanity to both man and creature that we probably think more about today than they did back in the day. I won’t give it away; you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Religiously speaking, one fellow tells another that “faith is for missionaries!,” not having any himself. That’s an all too common sentiment these days. And the Antagonist wields a Catholic rosary like a weapon. Jane infers from this that he must’ve had an inappropriate relationship with his priest, growing up. That too, would be a more contemporarily perceived observation. But Tarzan, as a persistent, unrelenting and sacrificial savior, could be likened to Christ, if you think about it.
For whatever reservations there may be for the Christian viewer, I must say that the beauty of the scenery is wonderful, the period attire and circumstance is engaging, and the whole connection that Tarzan has with the creatures remind of biblical things, and how one day they will resolve with a new earth and restored humanity, just as God envisioned. As far as a Hollywood production goes, this movie is not terribly objectionable, excepting whatever sensibilities one might have about showing true-to-form violent action. I appreciate that loyalty, good triumphing evil, racial equality, and marital fidelity are all elements of this movie, and that sins like greed, hate, and revenge, are ugly, as they should be. I don’t think the trailers do the movie justice, but it’s a classic story revamped, and perhaps a mere taste is all the makers figured we needed. Aaahhhhhhhaaaaaahhhhhhaaaaaaaaaahhhha! (Tarzan yell…)
Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Moderate—passionate married kisses, tribal men in loincloths, classic nude statues, shirtless men, nude Tarzan meets Jane (not graphic), married couple in bed
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…revisionist, anachronistic, weird and beautiful… Sections of this film are so imaginative, and so lovely, that they deserve our open-heartedness, not our scorn…
—Stephanie Zacharek, Time magazine
“The Legend of Tarzan” offers brawn over brains, making for a questionable return to the jungle… the film’s main source of suspense is watching it twist and contort a century-old property into something meaningful. … [2/4]
—Jake Coyle, Associated Press
…relatively lifeless incarnation… ponderous attempt to turn Tarzan into a 21st-century superhero… the visual effects are astonishingly subpar…
—Peter Debruge, Variety
…withers on the vine… a plodding, incoherent mess starring Skarsgard and his abs, which look more real than any of his CGI jungle companions. … [1/4]
—Sara Stewart, New York Post
…a big budget fiasco… “The Legend of Tarzan” doles out big beats of action at regular intervals to keep you awake, like a drunkard clashing trashcan lids in an alley late at night. But your eyelids grow heavy anyway. … [1/4]
—Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald
…more often fun than not… succeeds where other franchise revivals fail… [3½/5]
—Christian Hamaker, Crosswalk
…has some issues, “The Legend of Tarzan” doesn’t have as many as it could’ve had. …may not be a great movie, but it is a serviceable one—one which will likely appeal to those who dig animals and see the charm in a world not so civilized. [3/5]
—Paul Asay, Plugged In