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The Legend of Tarzan review: good old-fashioned adventurous fun

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

That The Legend of Tarzan - the latest version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' wild man to land up on celluloid - ended up being more than just mindless CGI with bad effects surprised me.

Because we've definitely had our fair share of those this year: Through the Looking Glass, Batman vs Superman and Independence Day: Resurgence to name a few.

This one is actually some good old-fashioned fun despite its serious subject matter - slavery and white supremacy - thanks to gorgeous landscapes, long dashes through the jungles of Africa, CGI animals and tonnes of rippling muscle courtesy Skarsgard.

Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood's Eric Northman) stars as Tarzan/John Clayton/Lord Greystoke. It's been a few years since he's been out of the jungle, living in England with Jane (a very plucky Margot Robbie) in his palatial family home.

But before we see him, we're introduced to Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz as a smooth-talking villain yet again). Rom desperately needs to pay off a massive debt thanks to a series of shifty deals in the African Congo and for that he needs diamonds.

A native tribe led by Chief Mbonga (Dijimon Hounsou) offers him some huge rocks if he manages to deliver the legend and myth that is Tarzan to him.

So Tarzan and Jane get lured back to the Congolese jungles, along with American Civil War vet George Washington Williams (Samuel L Jackson).

Since this isn't an origin story film, flashbacks are thrown in to show us how Tarzan and Jane met and demonstrate the complexity of the King of the Jungle. He's definitely got a burden to bear; being part of three societies - aristocracy, an African tribe and the animal kingdom - is no easy task.

Skarsgard is, of course, shirtless for at least 80% of the film, but then again Tarzan has always been among the rare few male objects of desire that have been objectified.

His performance is restrained and he does a commendable job at bringing Tarzan's animalistic physicalities into play. He's brooding, tantalising and powerful at the same time, and you can tell he worked on his accent for the film - his measured, reticent speech helps underline that he spent years in the jungle and learnt how to talk only much later in life.

And despite Jane being endangered frequently in The Legend of Tarzan, Robbie plays her in such a hardy manner that you don't worry about her for a second.

Samuel L Jackson (always have to use his full name, right?) provides moments of comic relief all through and is his fabulous fabulous as usual. Waltz is impeccable as per usual too, but it's getting a little irksome to see him play the same character over and over again. The man is a two-time Oscar winner and definitely has more up his sleeve than the fare he's been dishing out recently.

(Note: This is also Christoph Waltz's and Samuel L Jackson's third film together after starring in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds. Cannot EVER complain about that).

You'll possibly remember director David Yates from the last four Harry Potter movies. His uses the same epic style as before, but with an quality that brings the characters and landscapes to life.

My main complaint, though, is that everyone is taking this film too seriously so it never comes off as a fun romp you'd expect from a Tarzan film.

Perhaps that was unavoidable thanks to the focus on slavery which was intended to give us a glimpse about why exactly why King Leopold II of Belgium (1835-1909) was known as the butcher of Congo.

The verdict

It's a very well-intentioned take on the King of the Jungle. Bottom line: it's more entertaining than most of the other summer blockbusters we've gotten so far.

RATING: 3 out of 5

First published: 1 July 2016, 11:46 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.