I have always liked movies based on legends, folklore and dusty old fiction and the story of the Lord of the Apes is a good example. Alexander Skarsgard (of True Blood) portrays the legendary Tarzan, or Lord John Clayton III this time around. Margot Robbie plays his wife Jane, Samuel L Jackson plays George Washington Williams, an American diplomat, Djimon Hounsou plays a powerful Congolese chief and the ever charming Christoph Waltz portrays the evil Leon Rom, a Belgian citizen and envoy of King Leopold of Belgium. Of course, it really doesn’t hurt that Alexander Skarsgard is in fine form as I do appreciate a man who is ruggedly handsome, lithe and has an animal magnetism about him.
At the heart of The Legend of Tarzan are greed, oppression and slavery. John and his wife live in England, at the sprawling Greystoke estate, they are both settling down, but not in the way a married couple should. You can clearly see that John is not entirely comfortable as a Lord living at his vast estate and Jane, for her part, has suffered the loss of a baby and longs to go back to Africa, where her father had taught English to the Congo natives. They both grew up in Africa and miss it. The opportunity to return back to the jungle is not without peril – John wants Jane to stay safe, while traveling with George Washington Williams, in order to observe what is happening in the Belgian Congo. The British Prime Minister wants John to go and see it as a cause célèbre, whereas John would like to stay put and not be some celebrity on tour, for the sake of garnering public favor. George, on the other hand, knows that there is illegal activity going on – the enslavement of the Congolese people – and this is a man who survived the American Civil War, so you know this is near and dear to him.
When men are so full of themselves, their lust for power and wealth make them feel superior to others. Rom has enslaved many of the young men in the Congo, in order to build railways, oppress them and farm out diamonds. This will help out poor King Leopold, who got himself into a mountain-load of debt trying to conquer the men and women of the Belgian Congo. Many of the men are taken as slaves and made to board slave trains, taken away from their families forever. Once John and George discover this, it eventually leads them to Leon Rom. He is a dastardly fellow with an interesting beaded necklace (sorry, the things you notice).
King Leopold, in his attempt to glorify his kingdom, racked up so much debt, in order to build railway lines across the Congo and pour money into other endeavors. He wasn’t successful. As if some idiot on a throne thousands of miles away thought he could just rule over a nation he was not from, enslaving people he never came to know or understand. Greed and power seem to be the main things that men in powerful positions gravitate to. Fortunately for Leon Rom, he runs into a powerful chief in the Belgian Congo – both men can profit from an arrangement – Rom can get his diamonds, but only if he delivers Tarzan to chief Mbonga. Mbonga and Tarzan have some bad blood that never really dissolved. Rom gets more diamonds, a few thousand tribesmen to fight for him and takes off on down the river, thus setting off major conflict.
Rom captures Jane and takes her prisoner on his river boat. Jane is feisty and gives Rom major attitude. It also helps that Jane picked up native Congolese dialects over the years. Being fluent in another language other than English is certainly an asset, especially when speaking with the other hostages and trying to formulate plans. Rom tortures and beats up some of the hostages. This act, along with murdering several Congolese tribesmen, brings out the animal in John. Or should I say, “Tarzan.” Along the way and through the dark jungles, George observes how John interacts with the animals and has the chance to see John battle it out with his adopted brother, who just happens to be a powerfully built gorilla named Akut. Tarzan chases after Rom, defying major odds, while occasionally calling on some old friends to help out here and there. And we all know that where evil lies, there’s always a chance for good to smite it out.
If you like these types of movies, sprinkled with legend and some CGI, then this is an action packed movie to check out. Tarzan saves his beloved home once again. Find out for yourself when The Legend of Tarzan debuts Saturday, February 18 at 8:00pm. Here is a solid trailer complete with pounding score, powerful imagery and mighty apes: