Starring Alexander Skarsgård. Rated PG. Now playing.
After his series-clinching run of Harry Potter movies, director David Yates brings us a Tarzan flick that takes the character seriously. Tarzan is presented first as John Clayton III, a sitting member of the House of Lords, ambivalent about his fame as the ape-man. However, rumours of enslavement in his native Congo lure him back to the jungle, where he learns of a fiendish Belgian plot to exploit its diamonds.
Solemn condemnations of colonialism, environmental degradation, and genocide follow. These are apparently Yates’s notion of what makes a summer blockbuster. The idiosyncrasy is praiseworthy—as is is the cinematography. The movie commences with widescreen compositions of green canopy, threaded with mist and sunbeams. Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, as T and J, could not be prettier. The production detail is immense, from (faux? exploited?) native tribes to any number of fierce yet friendly CG animal companions.
For fun, we have vine swinging, gorilla wrestling, Belgian-trampling, and Samuel L. Jackson as a kvetching diplomat, thoroughly ill-suited for jungle adventure while the blindingly white Tarzan and Jane couldn’t be more at home. It’s not a bad gag, as race jokes go, even if Jackson’s delivery is jarringly modern in comparison with the stern mien of Skarsgård or even Christoph Waltz’s genially cruel Leon Rom, the most fiendish of the Belgian fiends.
This should be fun. At worst, it is a respectful attempt to update a golden-oldie character with pop psychology, a moderate, Netflixish level of sex and violence, and current (if not exceptional) special effects. The best effect of all is Skarsgård’s abs. They are amazing.