Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou and Jim Broadbent. Written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, directed by David Yates. Running time 110 minutes, budget $180 million.
It's not Tarzan, it's John. John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. The rugged, brooding English nobleman suffering nam-like flash backs to his jungle upbringing at the hands of a tribe of huge angry apes, who aren't like the usual gentle, forest gorillas made famous by Dian Fosey, but great big strapping CGI creations who were all very, very angry.
Every animal in this movie is a paid up member of the uncanny valley CGI safari-park menagerie. For rest assured when the disclaimer at the end of the film reads: 'no animal was harmed in the making of this movie' they ain't lying. The nearest a real-life animal gets seen in this film is when Tarzan catches and eats Jane's favourite Chihuahua.
The film sees Tarzan, sorry John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, back home in Blighty living with the love of his life, Jane Porter Clayton in what looks like the British Museum - built in the middle of a stupidly foggy Buckinghamshire. Together John and Jane fill their time entertaining the extremely ugly local mothers and their children with tales of John's daring do in the dark Continent. That is when John isn't sifting through a trunk of old mementos that trigger the aforementioned flashbacks and we get his origin story portioned out in bite-size chunks.
Meanwhile evil Belgium buisness man, Captain Léon Auguste Théophile Rom (Christoph Waltz) has done a deal with Djimon Hounsou's Chief Mbonga to get his hands on the diamond rich region Mbonga controls. Leon needs the diamonds to finance King Leopold II Congo campaign and Chief Mbonga needs Tarzan for something that happened back in the flashbacks. So Rom invites John Clayton to Africa to capture him, and despite being asked to go on behalf of the British Empire by Jim Broadbent's Prime Minister, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury John refuses. He's got some serious brooding to do.
Step in Samuel Jackson's George Washington Williams sent on a mission by President Benjamin Harrison to discover what is happening in Rom's Congo. He manages to convince John to go with him, and naturally, Jane goes too, cos otherwise who else would Tarzan, sorry John, have to rescue should Jane, god-forbid, be - let's say kidnapped by Rom as a lure to capture John, sorry Tarzan.
As soon as our band of plucky heroes, John, George and Jane land in Africa and make friends with a tribe of CGI lions and African natives, Leon kidnaps Jane and John has to rediscover his inner Tarzan to save her, along the way re-igniting his love of Africa and unleashing the beast within.
Cue a Sunday afternoon jog across Africa, some truly terrible CGI vine swinging, a terrific fight on a moving train, the showdown between Mbonga and Tarzjon before the third act, final showdown utterly revealed in the trailer.
Actually up until that part in the trailer, when the vast herd of CGI wilderbeast lay waste to a town and a boat explodes and Tarzan swings in on a crane hook, the film hasn't been that bad, okay it's not fantastic, it's a bit ploddy, Tarzan spends the entire movie having the shit kicked out of him by everyone and everything and some of the cgi action sequences are pretty shit particulary the vine-swinging bits that sees the vines operate on the same principle as the Spider-Man's webbing.
Alexander Skarsgård makes a great Tarzan and Margot Robbie makes the best Jane since Bo Derek, although how her thin, cheese cloth cotton manages not to become transparent when utterly soaking is an insult!
Overall, this is a well mounted movie, a solid, 'adult' attempt to bring Tarzan into the 21st Century. Yates and co desperately try to make Tarzan relevant and make him work in the real world. They do this by seeding the story with actual real life characters, like Samuel L. Jackson's George Washington, the Prime Minister of Great Britian, and Christoph's Leon Rom. And they do this by making Jane a sassy, fiesty, fighty heroine more than able to handle herself, while at the same time spending most of the film as, in her own words, 'a damsel in distress.'
Sadly though, this attempt to make him relevant is part of the problem, rather than just embrace Tarzan in all his pulpy glory this move to make him real somehow dilutes the character robbing him of his incredible power and it's a shame the film makers didn't just treat him like Indiana Jones and just run with it.
This is an entertaining and at times exciting film with some great sequences which is ultimately stymied by the need to make it real and relevant. Hopefully we'll get to see more Tarzan movies with more emphasis on Tarzan and less on John Clayton III.