Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Sidney Ralitsoele, Osy Ikhile, Mens-Sana Tamakloe, Edward Apegyei, Antony Acheampong, Casper Crump, Adam Ganne, Simon Russell Beale, Djimon Hounsou, Miles Jupp, Jim Broadbent, Christopher Benjamin, Ben Chaplin.
It is arguably one of the most distinctive calls in the history of cinema, a simple cry of masculinity and dominance and yet one that is fuelled by the perversity of European culture making claims on the lives and heritage of Africa in the 19th and 20th Century. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan is rich in its story telling, if not in the very sentiment of abuse it was trying to dispel in his readers at the time.
One of the most filmed literary heroes of all time, Tarzan hasn’t really had the popularity on screen since the days of the late great Johnny Weissmuller and the silver age of cinema, the black and white serials that peppered the screen on a Saturday, certainly, like other literary heroes or even anti heroes such as Flashman, the stain of the times has meant that perhaps the characters have no place in the modern world, that they are the as damned as anything resembling the curse of colonialism and Empire building.
Look beyond that though, get through the initial thoughts of such important matters for a moment and it is possible to see a place where Tarzan can exist in the modern era and not lose any of the outstanding power over the audience. In The Legend of Tarzan, the writers and cast have come up with a perfectly good adaptation, a scintillating ride through the minds of the evils of colonialism and one that really gets under the feeling of dread when one comes up against the natural laws of the jungle, that the slow get eaten and the arrogant deserve their beatings. It is a story that compels and puts the audience on edge but one that never wavers in its commitment to show that the blood of Africa is still a stain on modern life and that our heads should still bow in collective shame for what we did to the continent.
Tarzan really has not had a truly great portrayal in its screen life time, Johnny Weismuller encapsulated a time when the arrogance of man against man in combat was still echong on the battlefields of Europe, in Alexander Skarsgård’s uninhibited representation, Tarzan becomes more than a hero, he becomes an ideal, one in which a modern audience can feel the heartbeat of sincerity come rushing through the trees and bushes, the snap of bone rings true and the snort of contempt from nature a genuine feeling of fear.
With excellent performances by Margot Robbie and Christop Waltz as Jane Clayton and Leon Rom, Alexander Skarsgård truly becomes the man to whom millions enjoyed the adventures of in a time of imagination.
A fantastic film, one that grapples with the landgrab and carving up of the African continent by Europe, one that understands nature’s dominance over humanity and is totally enjoyable to watch, the best Tarzan adaptation by far.
Ian D. Hall