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May 12, 2017

Legend of Tarzan (2016) --- "An Ape-Man Returns To His Childhood Home, Comes Against An Old Rival, And Leads A Stampede."

Plot Summary
Here we follow the story of Tarzan after he leaves Africa with his wife, Jane Porter, and goes to his parents' home in England as Lord John Clayton 3rd.  After a time, he is asked by Belgian King Leopold, who is bankrupt, to go to Africa to see what he has done there to help the country in order to gain British investments. Initially, he refuses but an American, George Washington Williams, convinces him to accept the invitation by speculating that King Leopold is most likely committing all sorts of atrocities to achieve his goal, such as like slavery. However, Williams needs proof for Congress and John is his ticket into the country. Upon returning to Africa Williams, John, and Jane are met a man called Leon Rom, who works for King Leopold and later kidnaps Jane. In order to rescue Jane, John must become Tarzan again and travel across the jungle with William’s help.

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     ***SPOILER*** There's a moment in director David Yates' excellent and emotionally resonant Legend of Tarzan when George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), goads civilized Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) just a little too much. Skarsgard's Tarzan erupts instantly and spectacularly with a combination of physical force and gut-chilling animal sounds and pins the American to a wall, and then growls out the words: "They have my wife, and their families." In a single moment, Yates and Skarsgard display Tarzan's utter commitment to the woman he loves while at the same time evoking the internal contradiction of a man who in adulthood could pass as an aristocratic Englishman in society but whose feral upbringing has left him with an internal volatile beast that can overwhelm the civilized trappings in an instant. ***END SPOILER***
     Unlike the filmmakers before him, David Yates effectively captures the ‘aforementioned duality and in doing so delivers a film that is fresh and appealing to modern sensibilities, and yet faithful to the book (Edgar Rice Burroughs). The result is pure poetry with a beating heart, one that I believe Burroughs would approve of. When Edgar Rice Burroughs was firing on all cylinders, his emotionally infused adventure novels were able to strike a mythic vein that caused him to become the J.K. Rowlings of his day. He became the
first global pop culture author, his books, and characters embedded in cultures from Russia to Turkey to Japan and translated into 57 languages. At the time of his death in 1950, he was the best-known author with his works selling more than the combined sales of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Joyce. There are more than 50 movies about Tarzan and while each has been met with their own levels of success, never before have they captured the level of depth that this story has – until now. David Yates is the first to do it and The Legend of Tarzan stands far above its predecessors, – regardless of how it fares in the marketplace.
       The film’s production team deserves special recognition for creating something with heart, beauty, and lasting value. The editing (by Mark Day) is solid and efficient, and the story is driven by energy and commitment. Henry Braham's cinematography is gloomy and brooding in London, while in contrast, it is warm and earthy in Africa. The production design (Stuart Craig) is grand and reminiscent, while the music (Rupert Gregson Williams) is emotional and rhythmic. The screenwriters (Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer) updated Burroughs material by giving it historical dignity and excavating – from the pages of the early Tarzan books – the unique core values. Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan/John Clayton III and Christoph Waltz as the sadistic Leon Rom were amazing in their roles and the rivalry between the characters goes back to the days of the 30s when the villains appeared to be trustworthy and honest people. Margot Robbie – as American girl turned English Lady, Jane Clayton – is good in her role and she compliments Skarsgard nicely. However, sometimes her lines seemed to portray more of a Valley Girl from 2016 rather than a Lady of the 1880’s. Samuel L. Jackson offers some comic relief but there is not much of a difference between his character and himself.

     Overall, The Legend of Tarzan takes place 8 years after Tarzan and Jane have left the jungles of Africa for London’s aristocratic society in order to claim Tarzan’s birthright as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. I admire the structure of the film, as it managed to build up excitement throughout the entire film. Despite some minor character flaws – which can be easily laughed off – the overall cast is great and works wonderfully together. It is a piece of movie history as the Tarzan movie that captured the heart and spirit of Burroughs' creation.

“They are singing the legend of Tarzan. For many moons, he was thought to be an evil spirit - a ghost in the trees. They speak of his power over the animals of the jungle. Because his spirit came from them. He understood them. And learned to be as one with them.”
- Jane Clayton nee Porter [narrating]

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  4.8 of 5 stars
Worth Buying:  4.8 of 5 stars

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Movies Similar 
Hercules (2014)
John Carter (2012)
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
The Lone Ranger (2013)
Planet of the Apes, Rise of the (2011)
Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the (2014)
Planet of the Apes, War for the (2017) 

Cast & Crew
 Directed by: David Yates.
Writing Credits:
     (Screenplay and Story By) Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer.
     (Based on “Tarzan” created by) Edgar Rice Burroughs

Produced by:
   David Barron         --- producer (produced by)
   Bruce Berman       --- executive producer
   Scott Cherrin         --- co-producer (as Scott B. Cherrin)
   Susan Ekins          --- executive producer
   Keith Goldberg      --- executive producer
   Nikolas Korda       --- executive producer
   Tony Ludwig          --- producer (produced by)
   Steven Mnuchin   --- executive producer
   Mike Richardson  --- executive producer
   Alan Riche             --- producer (produced by)
   Jerry Weintraub    --- producer (produced by)
   David Yates           --- executive producer

Alexander SkarsgĂ„rd --- John Clayton / Tarzan
Rory J. Saper --- Young Tarzan (18 Years)
Christian Stevens --- Young Tarzan (5 Years)
Christoph Waltz --- Leon Rom
Samuel L. Jackson --- George Washington Williams
Margot Robbie --- Jane Clayton
Sidney Ralitsoele --- Wasimbu
Osy Ikhile --- Kwete
Edward Apeagyei --- Kimanga
Ashley Byam --- Kasai
Casper Crump --- Major Kerckhover
Djimon Hounsou --- Chief Mbonga
Charles Babalola --- Kulonga
Yule Masiteng --- Muviro
Mimi Ndiweni --- Eshe
Faith Edwards --- Older Kuba Woman
Matt Cross --- Akut
William Wollen --- Kerchak
Simon Russell Beale --- Mr. Frum
John Hollingworth --- Steward
Jim Broadbent --- Prime Minister
Christopher Benjamin --- Lord Knutsford
Paul Hamilton --- Lord Stanhope
Ben Chaplin --- Captain Moulle
Genevieve O'Reilly --- Tarzan's Mother
Hadley Fraser --- Tarzan's Father
Augusts Dakteris --- Tarzan Aerial Artist 

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