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Legend of Tarzan, The (3D Blu-ray Review)

7 Oct, 2016 By: John Latchem

Street 10/11/16
Box office $126.64 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 3D Blu-ray, $44.95 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for for sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and brief rude dialogue.
Stars Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent.

Director David Yates’ version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan story is an entertaining romp that puts a 21st century spin on the famed Lord of the Jungle by dropping him into real-world historical circumstances.

Set in 1890, the film begins with a Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) who is several years removed from the jungle, having returned to London to marry Jane (Margot Robbie) and take up the mantle of John Clayton, Earl of Greystoke.

Fondly reflecting on his youth growing up in the jungle, he accepts an invitation to tour the Belgian Congo to see the advancements of European colonization there. However, this turns out to be a ruse on the part of Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a Belgian overseer of the region who wants to give Tarzan to a tribal chief in exchange for a fortune in diamonds that will pay off the debt of the King of Belgium.

When Rom captures Jane, Tarzan must fight through the trap with the help of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), an American envoy looking to expose illegal slavery.

Though the plot is somewhat typical for this kind of movie, the end result offers a bit more weight than one might expect. While his origin is related through flashbacks, this movie’s Tarzan is a man straddling the worlds of his civilized self and his wild past. Basing the story on an older Tarzan allows the film to avoid the usual loincloth approach while still offering the vine-swinging character audiences might expect.

Even more interesting is the fact that Leon Rom and George Washington Williams were real people whose actions impacted the development of the Congo. While the primary purpose of the film might not be a history lesson, it can’t hurt if people want to look deeper into what actually happened there. Rom, for his part, may have been the primary inspiration for Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (a character better known to modern audiences through Marlon Brando’s portrayal in Apocalypse Now, which transposed the novella’s story from 19th century Africa to the Vietnam War).

The film is beautifully shot, taking advantage of the natural beauty of its setting, even though most of the jungle vistas were re-constructed in a computer (not unlike Disney’s recent The Jungle Book remake).

Yates, best known for directing a slew of “Harry Potter” movies, is no stranger to visual effects, so it’s not much of a surprise the film relies so much on them. The action scenes might seem a bit too slick, but there’s a certain hokey whimsy to them.

The 3D effects are mostly restrained, giving the film a slight pop while mostly accentuating the many wide-angle landscapes on display. There are a few attempts to highlight the 3D by bringing objects close to the camera, but they don’t seem to jump off the screen as much as they should.

Extras on the Blu-ray are limited to about an hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes. “Tarzan Reborn” runs about 15 minutes and looks at the film in the context of earlier portrayals of the character, and how filmmakers sought to give this one a modern take. “Battles and Bare-Knuckle Brawls” looks at the making of three of the film’s key action scenes, running about five minutes each. The six-minute “Tarzan and Jane’s Unfailing Love” focuses on the film’s love story, while “Creating the Virtual Jungle” is a 15-minute piece about the visual effects.

Rounding out the package are “Gabon to the Big Screen,” a two-and-a-half minute travelogue, and a short PSA about stopping the practice of hunting elephants for ivory.

About the Author: John Latchem

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