Since pulp fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs’s iconic white man in the jungle first appeared in 1914, Tarzan has appeared on film no less than 48 times. ‘The Legend of Tarzan,’ with Alexander Skarsgård in the role of British Viscount of Greystoke John Clayton of the House of Lords, would make that 49. I can’t say I’ve seen more than a small handful of Tarzan movies, although watching the syndicated 1966-1968 TV series starring Ron Ely during the 1980’s was one of my fonder childhood memories. Tarzan is truly a larger-than-life role model: heroic, noble, selfless and determined; the quintessential example of man’s ability to adapt and evolve in a hostile environment. Plus, he was coolly swinging around before Spiderman ever did.
The task of updating Tarzan for the jaded modern audience fell on British director David Yates, perhaps best known for helming the last four Harry Potter films. To his credit, Yates avoided a long and exhaustive retelling of Tarzan's origin story, relying instead on brief flashbacks that were more than adequate to the task. In TLOT Lord Greystoke is an adult who has adjusted into British society in the late 1800’s and happily married to his beloved Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), 10 years removed from the African Congo where he was raised by apes. Events conspired to draw him (reluctantly of course) back into the untamed wilderness when he was recruited by American envoy and Civil War veteran George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) to investigate suspected Belgian misdeeds in the Congo.
While TLOT offers nothing new with its simple good-versus-evil storyline and clichéd characters, it still manages to be a rollicking old fashioned action adventure that should please both the young and old alike. The CG visual f/x is raised to a whole new level of course, and Skarsgård’s perfectly sculpted abs will surely please the ladies and be the envy of men who drank a few more beers than they should have. As the movie's diabolical villain, Christoph Waltz once again showed that he fits the archetype, outshining his previous effort in ‘Spectre’ as the Belgian envoy Leon Rom.