The newest iteration of Tarzan certainly fills out the loincloth, but seriously lacks the lols

Newstalk's film critic Philip Molloy casts his eye over 'The Legend of Tarzan'

Legend of Tarzan, Movie Review, Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie

Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie star in 'The Legend of Tarzan' [Warner Bros]

The Legend of Tarzan (12A)

The Legend of Tarzan is a proper mix of adventure tale and love story set against a real and convincing background. Tarzan, or Lord John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard) is living the life of a wealthy aristocrat in the London of the 1870s when he is lured back to the jungle by a deal between a vengeful tribal chief and the psychopathic representative of the Belgian Government, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz).

Following the Berlin Conference in which parts of Africa are carved up between 14 different European countries, Belgian’s King Leopold attempts to colonise the Congo Basin, hiring an army of 20,000 mercenaries to do it – but he needs the money to pay them and he ravages the country to find it. Knowing that Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), who blames Tarzan for the death of his son, will pay to have him brought back to Africa, Rom kidnaps Jane to entice her husband into the jungle – and thus, for over half its length, The Legend of Tarzan becomes a credibly paced and plotted chase story in which the politics provide a background that joins all the other elements together.

The movie was made for a budget of $180m and the money, as they say, is on the screen. Six weeks of second unit shooting in Gabon and the jungle settings at the Warner Bros. extensive studio in Leavesden in Herfordshire combine with some generally convincing CGI effects to make it all feel believable and real and, whether it is or not, The Legend Of Tarzan never seems like an attempt to establish a new franchise. And the “origins” aspect of the story is more than competently worked into the film through a sequence of tightly mounted flashbacks.   

My main problem with it is the interpretation of the title character and the lack of humour in it. From Johnny Weissmuller to Mike Henry (former linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams), Tarzan in the cinema has been played by an athlete. In this case they have employed an actor and, for some reason, he hasn’t been allowed to act. He is handsome and almost graphically well built but he is also dull and stolid. Jane (the Australian actress Margot Robbie), his wife, is a much more vivid and spirited character. In Tarzan’s return to Africa he is accompanied by the standard sidekick, a representative of the American embassy in London (Samuel L Jackson) and, through his questions to both Tarzan and Jane he becomes a conduit into the main character’s past - and he also has some of the funniest lines in the movie. Just not enough of them. 

Every Thursday, Philip joins George Hook live in studio, talking screens silver and small. Listen back to the segment from this week's show below: