The character of Tarzan has been around for more than 100 years and was first created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The latest film adaptation hit theaters July 1 and starred Alexander Skarsgard at the jungle hero. The screenplay, written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, and director David Yates took the material provided by Burroughs and created a story of an original adventure with occasional flashbacks to effectively bring the character’s origins to light.
The story seems simple and does not appear to be written as a full action-adventure filled with many fight sequences and special effects that are known for summer blockbusters. The story picks up as Tarzan, or John Clayton, has been living in England for years with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) and learns the King of Belgium might be promoting slave labor in Tarzan’s homeland. Upon learning of this news, Tarzan plans a trip to return to his jungle home with the assistance of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), an American representative of President Benjamin Harrison. And of course Jane is not going to sit around and let her husband leave her, so she insists on returning with him. Soon after they arrive, they are ambushed and Jane is captured. Tarzan chases after his wife and her captor, Captain Rom (Christoph Waltz) who works for the King.
Skarsgard brings Tarzan to life with heart and quiet strength. Robbie’s portrays Jane with her own sense of female strength, and is not your typical damsel. Jackson puts some humor into his character as Tarzan’s sidekick. And Waltz brings his usual charm and charisma to the antagonist Captain Rom, with the right amount of bad-guyness (yes I just created that word) to the role.
As mentioned, the film does not contain a lot of large battles, fight scenes, and non-stop action (because I don’t believe it’s meant to). But it does have its share of those elements that prevent the film from becoming too dull. What worked for me was the fact that it wasn’t a retelling of an origin story, which I thought it might be when I was viewing the trailers and hearing about its upcoming release. The film seemed to intertwine the flashback sequences into the overall story to bring the right amount of background for the main characters without seeming awkward and disrupting the flow of the story. The characters appeared genuine and varied, which added to my enjoyment.
Overall, the story and characters were engaging and the film not bogged down by a lot of special effects, although there were some but not overbearingly so. The film seemed to accomplish what it was supposed to be. A simple story of the bad guy being bad and trying to take more that he should, and the underdog triumphantly overcoming some obstacles and saving the day (and the feisty damsel in distress). With a budget of $180 million it has garnered $103, 371, 594 domestically in revenue as of July 17, and over $195 million worldwide. The film isn’t necessarily a big summer blockbuster thus far, but it is decent summer entertainment.