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Film review: The Legend of Tarzan – the Lord of the Jungle gets a campy reboot

Tarzan has a superhero makeover, but is there a place for the vine-swinger among the plethora of big-screen, CGI-assisted action giants?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 July, 2016, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 July, 2016, 12:34pm

3/5 stars

Since first appearing in 1912, Tarzan has featured in 26 official novels and more than 200 films, making him one of the most ubiquitous action heroes of the 20th century. David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter films, has attempted to repackage the orphaned aristocrat as a full-blown superhero – with uneven results.

Now living in Victorian London with American wife Jane (Margot Robbie), John Clayton, Viscount of Greystoke (Alex Skarsgard) is drawn back to the Belgian Congo, where he was raised by giant Mangani apes, by a supposed invitation from King Leopold. Accompanied by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), an envoy from the US president who believes Leopold plans to enslave the African nation, Tarzan soon discovers he is to be sold to an old enemy by moustachioed villain Christoph Waltz.

Why Harry Potter director David Yates decided to bring Tarzan back to life

Shot entirely at Leavesden Studios in London, The Legend of Tarzan integrates state-of-the-art computer-generated animals and foliage into a shamelessly old-fashioned jungle adventure that regularly evokes King Kong and The Jungle Book. But Robbie, Jackson and the rest of the cast appear to willingly embrace the material’s inherent campiness, especially Waltz, who revisits his Oscar-winning performance from Inglourious Basterds yet again.

All eyes are on Skarsgard, however, who cuts a striking figure as the muscular, monosyllabic Tarzan swinging through the trees and wrestling wild beasts. Warner Brothers is clearly hoping this film will launch a new action franchise, but in a marketplace dominated by mutants and machinery, is there space for the Lord of the Jungle?

The Legend of Tarzan opens on June 30

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