Legend of Tarzan Paint

Legend of Tarzan Review: David Yates Delivers A Winner — Pulp Poetry With a Beating Heart.

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There’s a moment in David Yates’ excellent and emotionally resonant Legend of Tarzan when George Washington Williams’, played by Samuel L. Jackson, goads civilized Tarzan, played by Alexander Skarsgard, just a little too much.   Alexander Skarsgard’s Tarzan erupts instantly and spectacularly with a combination of physical force and gut-chilling animal sounds and pins the American to a wall,  then growls out the words:  “They have my wife, and their families.”    In this single small moment,  Yates and Skarsgard put on display Tarzan’s utter commitment to the woman he loves while at the same time same evoking the internal contradiction of a man who in adulthood could pass among society as a aristocratic Englishman, but whose feral upbringing has left him with a volatile beast within that can overwhelm the civilized trappings in an instant.  Unlike the filmmakers who have come before him, Yates effectively captures this duality – and in so doing delivers a film that is fresh and appealing to modern sensibilities, yet is faithful to the character of the books in ways that Hollywood has never attempted before. The result is pure pulp poetry with a beating heart.   Edgar Rice Burroughs would approve of it, and 21st century audiences will, if they can be lured into theaters to see it, be intrigued and satisfied by it.

Legend of Tarzan begins eight years after Tarzan and Jane (a luminous and effective Margot Robbie) have left Africa to undertake a gentrified life in London, where Tarzan has claimed his birthright of John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke.  He is drawn back to Africa at the behest of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a black American journalist who is based on the historical figure who led the exposure of the crimes of King Leopold II of Belgium.  Williams recruits him to assist in Williams’ quest to investigate the suspected crimes of King Leopold.  Accompanied by Jane, the two men return to Africa where Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) has laid a trap for Tarzan that, if successful, will result in Rom delivering Tarzan to Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), who seeks to deliver vengeance to Tarzan for killing Mbonga’s son many years earlier.  Mayhem and adventure ensues.

When Edgar Rice Burroughs was firing on all cylinders, his pulpy, emotionally infused adventure novels were able to strike a mythic vein that caused him to become the J.K. Rowlings of his day – the first global superstar pop culture author, translated into 57 languages, his books and characters embedded in cultures from Russia to Turkey and Japan.   At the time of his death in 1950 he was the best known author on the planet with his works selling more than the combined sales of his contemporaries Hemingway, Faulkner, and Joyce. Hollywood tried more than fifty times and although the movies obviously met with success — not one of them ever captured what the grand old pulp master had created on the page.  Yates is the first to do it; his Legend of Tarzan stands head and shoulders above the Tarzan movies that came before it–and regardless of how it fares in the crowded summer theatrical marketplace, it is assured of a place in cinema history as the Tarzan movie that captured the heart and spirit of Burroughs’ creation.

It remains to be seen how 2016 audiences react. Has Tarzan’s time on the world stage passed, or is there indeed something mythic and archetypal that can cause the character to come alive in the modern imaginations?  Yates and his team have given it an extraordinary “best shot” and have created something of heart, beauty, and lasting value.   The editing of the film by Mark Day is taut and streamlined –not a moment is wasted and the story drives forward with energy and commitment; Henry Braham’s cinematography is cool and brooding in London, and lush and earthy in Africa; the production design by Stuart Craig is grand and evocative; and the music by Rupert Gregson Williams is both emotional and pulse-quickening.   Special mention goes to screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer who updated the Burroughs material, giving it unexpected historical gravitas, while excavating from the pages of the early Tarzan books the core values that made them unique.   And the CGI wizardry  is seamless, photorealistic, and effective on all levels.

Give Legend of Tarzan a chance to work its magic on you.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.



  • I’m in shock right now. A Rotten Tomatoe Meter of 24% for critics. WTF. LOT is worse than ID:R. Read a few of the negative reviews and they have absolutely nothing to do with the movie. It’s all about the times and how a 19th century character has no business in the 20th century. This a perfect example of just how messed up our media and culture has become.

    • Sometimes what the reviewers write says a lot more about their jaded selves than the movie they’re reviewing. There are some assertively favorable reviews from major reviewers …. but it looks like they might get drowned out. We have to wait a bit longer and see …. but I think the trend is becoming apparent.

      Meanwhile, the User Rating on IMDB is at 8.0 which is great. It will come down a bit, but that’s a good rating.

      It could be that this is just going to be polarizing for all the reasons we feared.

  • I took a glance at RT at work and was very unpleasantly surprised. I wasn’t expecting 90’s but was not remotely expecting this either. I read a few reviews before giving up. I think there were some who didn’t like the movie, even though they knew the background and what the movie was attempting to. A couple of them, though, really didn’t seem to understand the character of Tarzan as written by ERB and were comparing it to previous movie versions. I get critiques of pacing, acting, editing, etc, but some of what I read, not sure if the reviewer had too many to preconcievned notions,
    Haven’t been on IMDB since this morning, but I do wonder if the audience scores are going to stay that high, and that polarized. The women like it, and the older audience does, but it seems the younger males don’t like it all.
    I’m also somewhat amused by that fact that some reviewers hate the CGI and others think it’s great.

  • Thank you, Michael, for sharing your glowing review of LOT! So glad to hear it’s a really good film…and a really good *Tarzan* film, which is what so many have been waiting for. Makes me so excited to see it, which I’ll hopefully be doing this weekend. Can’t wait! 🙂

    • Well it seems to me that ERB’s Tarzan books had a message. Animals are honorable, humans are weak and evil due to the forces of civilization destroying their more noble nature ….. etc etc . . . . you can’t escape it. ERB had a message too. The movie has no more of a message than he did– at least that’s how it seems to me.

  • Thank you, Michael, for sharing your review. I can’t wait to see it tomorrow night. Despite all of the negativity in the reviews, I value your judgment above theirs and look forward to a fun-filled night. 🙂

  • USA Today (Brian Truitt) had a fairly negative review of Tarzan, and then I saw this published an hour ago. Seems that his female colleague does not share his opinion completely. They discuss the movie on the podcast so you can listen. First, they discussed the Game of Thrones finale, so if you are not a fan of this TV show like me, you can skip to 13:45, where Andrea starts talking about Tarzan movie.


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