by Evyania Constant
Overflowing with scenes of intense combat and stunningly picturesque wildlife, The Legend of Tarzan will keep your eyes peeled open for 2 hours straight. This adaption of the original Tarzan story is set in the late 1800s, under the reign of King Leopold II, starring Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan himself or, as he is called in the majority of the film, John Clayton. We follow John through his adventures long after he has grown up, married Jane (Margot Robbie), and officially left the jungle. Though he and his wife have found a new life in England, his legend remains with him. When King Leopold begins his exploitation of the Congo, one of his men, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) encounters a native tribe standing between him and the diamonds he seeks. In order to gain access to the treasures, tribe leader Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) demands that Captain Rom bring him Tarzan, so that he may sort out unsettled business of the past.
Thus, Tarzan is tricked into returning to Africa with the accompaniment of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), an American looking to expose King Leopold’s establishment of slavery in the Congo. Jane, too, comes along, eager not to miss the adventure. This soon seems a mistake when Captain Rom, in pursuit of Tarzan, manages to capture Jane and hold her for ransom; however, she is hardly a damsel in distress. While following Tarzan’s hunt to rescue her, we simultaneously watch Jane in her efforts to escape and defeat Rom.
In the midst of this journey, The Legend of Tarzan turns back time to depict Tarzan and Jane’s lives in Africa, prior to their meeting. We learn about Tarzan’s parents and how they ended up in the jungle in the first place. We also come to understand Tarzan’s relationship with his ape-family and where he stands in regards to the rest of the animals in the jungle. These transitions from past to present feel natural and necessary. Through them, we develop a better understanding of Tarzan’s prior life in the jungle, and his ever-growing love for Jane. They provide us with just enough information about the past, but keep the focus on the current on-screen adventure.
Though this film means to portray the story of Tarzan, it deals with much more than just a man living in the jungle. It confronts issues of race, slavery, and imperialism, which defined the late 1800s. It is (though loosely) based on real people and real events, and each character is depicted with grace and authenticity. Captain Rom represents the evils of imperialism, and just how cruel people are willing to be in order to make money. George Washington Williams and the various indigenous people of Africa show us the affected side of imperialism: the injustice behind slavery and exploitation, and the need to stop it.
The Legend of Tarzan is a fresh change from the “origin story” that we have seen so much, lately. It starts with information we already know about Tarzan and builds on it, providing us with an entertaining, but also important film. It is rich in both action, and lessons in morality, making it an absolute must-see.