Wednesday, July 6

The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

Directed by David Yates

As we were waiting for this movie to begin, I told a friend that, "I hope this is a good Tarzan movie. I've seen too many bad Tarzan movies...."

I’m a bit conflicted about this movie. Overall, I enjoyed it, and in certain respects it is the very best and most balanced portrayal of the dual character of John Clayton – the “Lord of the Jungle” raised from infancy by a tribe of mangani “great apes,” vs. the cultured, educated English Lord Greystoke in Parliament – that I think has ever been captured on screen, beyond even Greystoke from thirty-plus years ago. It wasn’t perfect, by any means – I don’t think the trope of him being able to virtually “talk” to just about any kind of jungle creature, including perfectly mimicking their various calls, has any basis in the original novels, and I found the melancholy character at the beginning of the movie, pretty much having turned his back entirely on his former life in the wild, alien to the character I remember. He also seemed at the same time less formidable than the demigodlike figure of the books – and comics – and able to survive punishment from full-grown bull “apes” that would surely have shattered bones and probably killed a man. In a way, it seemed more realistic – and yet more cartoonish at the same time. But on balance, Alexander Skarsgaard’s portrayal was perhaps the definitive Tarzan character. Jane, portrayed by Margot Robbie was a bit more problematic. Stunningly beautiful, yes, but feistier than she really should have been – would have been in the 19th century – when, yes, this was set, rather than properly in the early 20th century. But modern audiences are not going to accept the more passive female lead – “Like a damsel,” in her own words – that the original books made her, simply because it was a different time. On balance, again, I liked her portrayal within this movie.