The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, is an updated take on the classic tale. Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novel series, this 2016 film adaptation is both true to the original and a fresh look at the legend of Tarzan. I went into this with perhaps less bias than most. Although I am an avid fan of the book series, I have never seen any of the many film versions of the Tarzan tale – not even the animated Disney version. So in my mind, I only had Burroughs’ novels as a point of comparison. In my opinion, this version took the mythical, legendary elements of the original epic and married them to a modern adventure-romance story for a movie that, like all great couples, is more than the sum of its parts.

The Legend of Tarzan

I really don’t know where to start – I love so many things about this movie. The visuals, for one, are absolutely stunning. The shots are gorgeous and the backgrounds are breathtaking. The cinematography of this movie is a work of art in and of itself. And the score! The music completely swept me off my feet. At times grand and sweeping, at times soft and tender, at times intense and dramatic, but always beautiful and compelling. And the incorporation of traditional music and singing was completely perfect. The opening music and vocals gives me chills every single time.

Then of course there is the story. The screenwriters seem to have drawn on elements from several of the original novels and on some actual events from Africa’s history, specifically the history of the Belgian Congo. The fantastical elements of the legend of Tarzan are grounded by the very real facts of African exploitation and enslavement. This creates a compelling narrative that is both thrilling and thought-provoking. I also love the way the story opens in England, nearly a decade after Tarzan and Jane have left Africa. Instead of with his feral upbringing, which is shown in flashbacks. Both the story and the characters are extremely well-crafted.

The Legend Of Tarzan

Speaking of characters, I now come to the casting. Spot on, in my book. Margot Robbie’s Jane Porter is everything we could ever want – beautiful, fierce, effervescent, strong, feminine, free-spirited. She is never the damsel in distress – she rescues Tarzan every bit as much as he rescues her. George Washington Williams, based on the American journalist who exposed much of the evil happening in the Belgian Congo, is of course brilliantly played by Samuel L. Jackson. Is he ever less than perfect in any of his roles? And of course I adore Chief Muviro (Yule Masiteng) and the rest of the Kuba tribe. And Wasimbu (Sidney Ralitsoele) is not only one of my favorite characters, he’s also perhaps the best-looking guy in the movie. Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) is one of our story’s 2 villains and eminently despicable. He is also based on a real person and it is saddening to think that humanity is capable of what he is and does. Which makes his ultimate defeat that much more satisfying. Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) is a different breed of villain but his story arc is satisfying as well. And then of course we have our hero: Tarzan, John Clayton III, fifth Earl of Greystoke, son of John and Lady Alice Clayton. Alexander Skarsgård perfectly captures both sides of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original hero: the polished aristocrat and the beast caged within. He makes it so easy to believe that he was indeed raised by the mangani (a fictional species of ape created by Burroughs). And of course, he is very easy on the eyes.

The Legend of Tarzan

In short, I love the Tarzan books and I love The Legend of Tarzan. Although I’ve not seen them, I do have a working knowledge of some of the other film adaptations and I believe this version to be the first to remain true to the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original classic. The creators of this movie have brought to life a character and a legend that has had a special place in my heart for many years. I highly recommend The Legend of Tarzan to film-viewers everywhere.

Introducing Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes and Return of Tarzan, for all intents and purposes, are one book. A single narrative, the first part ends in a cliffhanger where the second novel begins and then wraps up the story. So this article is about both novels. At the beginning of the tale, we are introduced to newlyweds Lord and Lady Greystoke, who are en route to Africa. John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, has been appointed by her majesty to a post in one of the British Empire’s African colonies. They never reach their destination. Mutiny leaves them stranded on the west coast of Africa.

John does his best to protect and care for Alice, building a stout log cabin and foraging for food. All his care, however, cannot save her from the dangers of the jungle. Shortly after bringing a son into the world, she dies of a fever. Her husband soon follows her to the grave at the hands of an ape. The ape would have killed the infant in the cradle as well, but for the intervention of a young female ape whose own son has just died. She names him Tarzan and raises him as her own.

Remarkably, he survives to manhood. As he grows, so do his intellect and emotions. With little in common with his ape “family,” he eventually forsakes them for a life of solitude. While still a boy he had discovered the cabin where he was born. He did not know nor care who the 2 skeletons within those stout walls had formerly been. But the cabin and the curious things in it intrigued him. He quickly mastered the use of a hunting knife, but it took a little longer to discover the secret of the little black “bugs” covering the pages of the books and diary he also found. In time, however, he taught himself to read and write English, in spite of not speaking a word of it.

His life is forever changed by the arrival of another group of stranded castaways, also the victims of mutiny. Professor Porter, his daughter Jane, his assistant Mr. Philander, Jane’s maid Esmerelda, and William Cecil Clayton, young Lord Greystoke. Their arrival sets in motion a chain of events that will forever change both their lives and the jungle life of Tarzan. Both Tarzan of the Apes and Return of Tarzan are gripping and suspenseful; holding a reader captive until the tale is told.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

One of my favorite authors is fantasy/sci-fi master Edgar Rice Burroughs. Although he’s most famous for his Tarzan books, my first encounter with his work was through the deathless Virginian, John Carter, and his incomparable Dejah Thoris. I happened to stumble across A Princess of Mars on Project Gutenberg when I was browsing through their most-downloaded titles. “Well, this one could be interesting,” I thought. “It must be pretty good if it’s this popular and I do love sci-fi.” (Like most if not all of his books, it’s as much or maybe more fantasy than sci-fi, but I didn’t know this at first.) So I put it on my Kindle and started reading. I was instantly hooked. Every other Burroughs book Project Gutenberg had was on my Kindle by the end of the week and it didn’t take me more than 4 weeks to read them. I also started my print collection right away, focusing particularly on the ones I couldn’t get from Gutenberg. But I hope to own a copy of every book he ever wrote eventually.

All of Burroughs’ books have a similar feel. In fact, he’s been criticized for all of his books being “the same plot, just different settings.” I don’t think they’re all the same, but there are certain common denominators. He obviously had a very specific idea of what characteristics a hero must have, as most of his books could swap protagonists and we’d scarcely notice. They’re not identical twins – but they are all brothers. Certain plot devices are common to most of his books, but are always rearranged and twisted into a new narrative. Chases, capture, escapes, villains with no honor who are out to kill our hero and enslave his love, and a hero who inevitably becomes a champion for the oppressed and of course always wins his true love. One would think that his plots would be repetitive and tiresome after the first few, but I never grow tired of them. He always manages to make each one fresh and new.

His strongest point is in the creation of exotic locales, environments, societies, and creatures. His imagination is unsurpassed in that regard; he is the master of creating worlds. From Mars to Venus to Luna to the center of the Earth to a lost continent in the south Pacific, the settings for his stories are always incredible, fantastic, and unbelievable. Each series is set in a new place and each location is fully developed and as radically different from all the others as from the Earth we know. The only one that is not completely his creation is the jungles of Africa where Tarzan lives; he was somewhat bound by actual facts on that one. His science is a little fuzzy, but his fiction is top-notch. It is with good reason that his work has endured as long as it has and that he is considered one of the most influential writers of modern times.