To everyone who’s been waiting on our review of director Sam Mendes’ 2005 war film, Jarhead, please wait an hour or so longer; by a mix of luck and my less-than-impatience to see this film, The Legend of Tarzan, this review works as a chronological and thematic prologue of sorts into Jarhead.
Nevertheless, let’s get cracking, no, that’s not right. Let’s get right into this then.
Director David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan is a generally very straightforward period piece which wanted more to do with the Belgian subjugation of the Congo basin in the late 19th century than necessarily be a Tarzan film but it does both fairly well without becoming too graphic given its historical backdrop. It uses the Belgian presence in that area as a backdrop and recurring plot point without completely using Tarzan as a plot point to advance the movie’s shortened take on Belgium in the Congo. Director Yates’ previous experience in the last three Harry Potter films – using a fictional protagonist to occasionally advance the cause of a fictional or somewhat fictionalised conflict – somewhat pays off here.
The script, penned by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer and inspired by a mix of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan and Belgium’s exploitation of the Congo basin, is really an implicit exploration of the Belgian exploitation of the Congo basin through Tarzan’s, but largely Samuel L Jackson’s Williams’, eyes. The latter is the Civil War veteran who is the audience’s, and indeed Tarzan’s, grounded entry-point to the film’s Congo-set world.
The cast, with special emphasis on Alexander Skarsgård’s Tarzan, are largely on-point and convincing in their roles, despite an evidently restrained depiction of Leon Rom by Christoph Waltz and an often-distracting and a sometimes out of place Samuel L Jackson.
The score by composer Rupert Gregson-Williams is especially strong in the opening with a vocal performance by Zoe Mthiyane which builds tension, much like the rest of the score, in the simple but effective first act of the film. The score as a whole may be one you revisit after the film. I know I did for atmosphere’s sake alone whilst writing this review.
The cinematography, courtesy of Director of Photography, Henry Braham, lends itself nicely to 3D but often doesn’t let you take in the open grasslands due to a few tracking shots on the main characters, à la an early scene in a grassland village. It contributes to the generally well-made aesthetic of the film.
Very simply, if you’re up for a non-superhero, non-espionage, non-global threat scenario summer film, The Legend of Tarzan may just be for you. It’s generally well-made, fairly well-plotted and well-scored.
Act 1: Rom agrees to Mbonga’s terms to deliver Tarzan to him in exchange for the sought-after diamonds of Opar.
Act 2: Tarzan accepts King Leopold II’s invitation to visit the Congo Free State at George Washington Williams’ beckoning; Jane is reluctantly allowed to come.
Act 3: Jane is abducted by Rom; Tarzan and Williams decide how to follow both of them.
Act 4: Tarzan runs into his brother, the gorilla Akut; they must confront each other.
Act 5: Tarzan chooses to spare Chief Mbonga; he then proceeds to the port of Boma and Rom.
Act 6: Tarzan chooses to leave Rom to the crocodiles and stay in Africa with Jane.
(While the above article drew upon the observations and opinions of the author, the following sources were used for the facts cited therein: FrontierPartisans.com, Global.Brittanica.com, Hartford-HWP.com, HistoryToday.com, IMDb.com, LAProgressive.com, News.BBC.co.uk, NewsBred.com, NewYorker.com, NPR.org, WalkingButterfly.com, WSWS.org)