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Return to Africa With the Legend of Tarzan

Updated on April 9, 2018

The Legend of Tarzan

A modern-day take on the Lord of the Jungle
A modern-day take on the Lord of the Jungle | Source

Credits

The Legend of Tarzan: Rated PG-13” (1 h. 50 m.)

Starring: Alexandar Skarsgard, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou

Directed by: David Yates

From the pen of ERB

Every 10 years or so —thanks to the continued efforts of the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) — we get another new Tarzan film, and this year is no different, except, much to our delight, the film is actually one of the better Tarzan films that we recall having seen. Unlike many of the other incarnations we recall seeing this one doesn’t so much linger on the origin of the Lord of the Apes, but (mostly) relegates his origin to a backstory told in flashback vignettes, sprinkled throughout the film’s nearly two-hour run-time.

Back to Africa

At the start of this film, it is 1889, Tarzan has already met his beloved wife Jane and returned to England to assume his rightful title of Lord John Clayton Greystoke. In fact, it has been a decade since he has actually gone by the name Tarzan, and he is now quite comfortable with his life as a British Lord. However, at the behest of an American emissary, Dr. George Washington Williams (Jackson), who is there ostensibly to represent King Leopold of Belgium and get Lord Greystoke’s blessing for the King’s operation in the Congo. However, the truth is that King Leopold has been enslaving the locals to mine diamonds and build camps to pay for his private army of mercenaries so that he can rule the entire region with an iron gist, and mine enough diamonds so that he can pay off the huge debts he has racked up in this endeavor.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN - Official Trailer 2

Subtext

Having witnessed slavery firsthand in America, Williams is attempting to enlist Lord Greystoke’s help to end the practices, and expose King Leopold’s treachery and human rights violations. Unbeknownst to Parliament, Williams, or Lord Grestoke, there is more going her than any of them know. All of this has been arranged by a man known as Leon Rom (Waltz) who is working with a Tribal warlord, named Mbonga (Hounsou). If Rom can deliver Tarzan to Mbonga, who has a long-standing grudge against Tarzan, then Rom will have unfettered access to the diamonds.

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan his natural habitat.
Tarzan his natural habitat. | Source

The Wilds of Africa

Not only does the film wonderfully display the magnificent beauty of Africa, but all of its magnificent wildlife is also amply displayed (to be sure, the “wild animals,” were CGI, but they looked real enough for the film). The film also does its part to “retool” Tarzan for the modern age. This is no mere Whit man who has Lordship over the Black Africans, but this is a man who has become one with the native population (much akin to Kevin Costner’s Lieutenant Dunbar, from Dances with Wolves, or even Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully in Avatar). This is a man who is at one with the world around him and demands that others do the same. Further, as it turns out, George Washington Williams was an actual historic character, and Jackson took the time to actually read up on Williams before taking on the role, even visiting Williams’ grave in Liverpool.

Tarzan v a great ape

A show down between Tarzan and his "brother".
A show down between Tarzan and his "brother". | Source

The Tarzan of our Fathers

Yes, while this is not so much the Tarzan of our fathers, it is really very respectful of what has gone before — both on film and in the printed works. So we get to see not only a very human side of Tarzan, but the savage beast within him as well. We see him as the high-born, British Lord, as well as the savage Lord of the Jungle. We also get to see him as the quite, and loving husband of Jane, and her as both the dutiful wife as well as a woman used to the wilds of Africa. Then of course the rest of the cast, the always solid Jackson, and the always delightful Waltz, who is just as much fun to watch as a bad guy as he is to watch as a good guy. So yes, take the time to back out to the theater and check out this latest incarnation of ERB’s seminal hero just to see what all the fuss is about.

Tarzan and Jane

One of the most iconic couples in all of literature.
One of the most iconic couples in all of literature. | Source

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