Ululating yell, echoing through the jungle. Check.
Great apes. The finest CG simians megamillions can buy. Check ’em out.
Loincloth. Nope. Pants.
The Tarzan in “The Legend of Tarzan” is a civilized man, Lord Greystoke to you, pal. He’s living the good life at the ancestral manse outside London town with his lovely wife, Jane, and no way does he want to return to his former arboreal haunts in the Congo.
Tough bananas, ape man. There’s villainy afoot, with a white-suited dastard scheming to lure you into a deadly trap back in the bush. And there, thus lured, with shirt off — geez, that man is buff; get a load of those so-cut pecs — but pants on, he swings through the trees bellowing his trademark yell, and then bashes sneering bad guys in the head, nuzzles lion buddies, caresses majestic elephants and otherwise does his Tarzany thing in the time-honored manner.
Alexander Skarsgård plays Our Hero as a dour cuss, a man of relatively few but well-articulated words — Civilized! — who truly does love dewy Jane (Margot Robbie, smiling glowingly). And when the white-suited schemer, played by Christoph Waltz with silken charm covering steely villainy, takes Jane captive, angering the ape man no end, well you can guess the rest.
Tarzan is helped in his rescue quest by Samuel L. Jackson, playing an American adventurer in the mold of his “Hateful Eight” character, a sharp-shooting Civil War vet but one who has gone through a crisis of conscience after a stint as a killer mercenary.
Threaded through the narrative is Tarzan’s origin story, told in gauzy sun-drenched his-and-her flashbacks.
“Legend” is not a bad picture, as Tarzan movies go. Directed by David Yates (the last four “Harry Potter” pictures), it exhibits a social conscience as it pits its protagonist against enslaving Belgian mercenaries. However, it presents a happier outcome than what really went on in the Congo under the reign of King Leopold II in the late 1800s, which was decades of slavery and mass murder of the indigenous peoples. Its “white man as savior of black Africans” theme is, to say the least, highly anachronistic in these days and times.
The Legend of Tarzan
☆☆ 1/2 out of 5
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz
Director: David Yates
Running time: 1:50
Rated: PG-13 for for sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and brief rude dialogue.