The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Shot almost entirely on a soundstage in England, The Legend of Tarzan is a CGI masterpiece, recreating lush nineteenth century Congo forest and savanna with the magic of pixels. From an almost turgid attempt by British director David Yates to build on his epic vision for Tarzan, comes an original sequel story and a radical pragmatic history lesson all in one.

Picking up eight years after Tarzan and Jane return to civilisation, the pair are convinced to  leave England and return to the Congo to analyse Belgian progress. Reluctantly he heads back to Africa, teaming with US envoy and Civil War veteran George Williams to battle illegal slavery attempts in the Belgian Congo. The ensuing adventure gives Tarzan an opportunity to reconnect with his roots, while attempting to save hundreds upon thousands of slaves and the nation of Africa itself in the process.

When Alexander Skarsgard is swinging through the trees there is a superb fluidity and grace to his movements that can draw you easily into his moment. There is also an abundance of surprisingly genuine pathos between Tarzan and his CGI ape family. But where his bulky torso persuades, his spirit and charisma fails. Margot Robbie is entirely in perfect matrimony with her role as Jane, in her fast, insolent comic timing and pampered mischief. Yates and his writers address this romance by drawing the couple apart for the duration of the film, to prepare us for what almost feels like an ideal love story. Finally, Samuel L. Jackson delivers an intriguing and mesmerising performance in his addition to the formula – bringing spirit and character to the action-packed adventure.

While The Legend of Tarzan attempts to expose the ugliness of colonialism and the exploitation of the Congolese and their homes, it is still vaguely limited by its primary concern to entertain as an impressing visual spectacle. However, it could never have adequately expressed the brutal Belgian colonial experiment, which resulted in the loss of millions of lives and continued on for many many years after the credits. To be fair, David Yates can be praised for attempting to address this issue in an uncomfortable manner- perfect for attracting the attention of the audience.

Despite its minimal inconsistencies, The Legend of Tarzan is an enjoyable film with enough momentum and energy to keep you riveted the entire time. After initially establishing low expectations for this film, I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by its compelling story and action-packed adventure.

★★★☆☆

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