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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

DVD Of The Week: The Legend Of Tarzan (2016)


To cut a long story short, The Legend Of Tarzan isn't just the best action movie of the year, but is also now one of my all-time favourites.

Director David Yates' period piece is as near perfect a Tarzan tale as I could have hoped for, drawing on Edgar Rice Burroughs' source material (as well as the popular pulp era movies) to serve up a true edge-of-the-seat, straight-forward, non-stop, roller coaster of an old school, ripping yarns adventure.

Simply put, they don't make films like this any more... more's the pity.

It's Africa in the late 19th Century and Belgium emissary Leon Rom (Spectre's Christoph Waltz) is the sole survivor of a diamond-hunting raid on the mythical city of Opar. Captured by Chief Mbonga (Guardians Of The Galaxy's Djimon Hounsou), Rom is offered a deal for access to the city's diamond supply: he must bring the chief's arch-enemy to him. This being Tarzan!

Tarzan aka Lord John Clayton III (True Blood's Alexander Skarsgård) has returned to England and is living the life of a lord with his lovely wife, Jane (Suicide Squad's Margot Robbie).

He receives an invitation from King Leopold of Belgium to visit the Congo and is reluctantly persuaded by American George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) to take up the offer, as George wants to follow up rumours of illegal slavery in the country.

Along with Jane, the two men head to Africa, and the pretence of John Clayton's invitation being a diplomatic issue is quickly torn asunder when Rom and his mercenaries attack the village where our heroes are staying, kidnapping Jane in the process.

The Legend Of Tarzan then becomes a race against time, not only to rescue Jane, but then to prevent Rom getting the diamonds to the coast to pay off a huge mercenary army that will soon be landing to enslave the country's entire native population to work for King Leopold.

As well as drawing on the traditional source material, both Burroughs' novels and the early films (there's a couple of Weissmuller yodels - but given a more bestial remix - as well as visual nods to my favourite Johnny Weissmuller outing as Tarzan: 1946's Tarzan And The Leopard Woman), The Legend Of Tarzan also draws heavily in tone and style from another of my all-time favourite pulp action films: Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

Waltz, while playing a variation of his usual deadpan arrogance, is essentially a different take on Paul Freeman's Belloq. The dinner scene between Rom and Jane is a clear homage - down to the knife-stealing - of the similar scene in Raiders, between Belloq and Marion.

The Raiders' tone is also reflected in the moments of levity that slip seamlessly between the darker, more violent, episodes (I'd cite the fight between Tarzan and a train carriage full of soldiers as a particularly strong example of the balance of action and humour).

The CGI effects are slick, dynamic, and beautiful, sucking you into the film rather than shattering any suspension of belief you may require for Tarzan's magnificent, superhuman, displays of strength, endurance, and agility, or his - and others- interactions with the fearsome wild life of Africa.

Kudos also to scriptwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer for a screenplay that continually escalates to a monumental showdown, while cleverly weaving in Tarzan's origin story - in flashbacks - without reducing The Legend Of Tarzan to being simply yet another retelling of the 'birth' of Tarzan Of The Apes.

If you like old school adventure movies, particularly those that inspired, or were inspired by, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, then this is the film for you. It's exciting, inventive, and thrilling, modern-yet-retro, and a must see for Tarzan fans new and old.

4 comments:

  1. The reviews were so mixed I didn't go see it. But if it has a pulp-Raiders feel to it, I'll have to watch it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cannot recommend it highly enough. I was hoping it would be good, but it exceeded all expectations ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's is very good. I enjoyed it. His solution to the army guns against him was awesome. I wished they hadn't show that scene in the trailer because it was spectacular watching those Wildebeasst cut through the encamptment.

    ReplyDelete

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