Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Adam Cozad, Craig Brewer
Produced by: Jerry Weintraub, David Barron, Alan Riche, Tony Ludwig
Other cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Rory J. Saper, Christian Stevens
Release date: June 27, 2016 (Dolby Theatre), July 1, 2016 (United States)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Running time: 1h 50min
The Legend of Tarzan is a 2016 American action adventure film based on the fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Directed by David Yates and written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, the film stars Alexander Skarsgård as the title character, with Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, and Christoph Waltz in supporting roles. Principal photography began on June 21, 2014, at Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios in the United Kingdom, and wrapped four months later on October 3. The film premiered at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on June 29, 2016 and was theatrically released in the United States on July 1, 2016, in 2D, 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D. The film received mixed reviews and has grossed over $347 million.
As a result of the Berlin Conference, the Congo is divided up between Belgium and the United Kingdom. The Belgian governmentis on the verge of bankruptcy, having gone into heavy debt to build a national railway and other infrastructure. In response, King Leopold II of the Belgians decides to extract the Congo’s rich mineral deposits, sending his envoy Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to secure the fabled diamonds of Opar. Rom’s expedition is ambushed and massacred, with only Rom surviving. A tribal leader, Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), offers him the diamonds in exchange for an old enemy: Tarzan.
In London, the man once called “Tarzan” has long since left Africa behind and settled down with his wife, American aristocrat Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), and has taken up both his birth name and ancestral family residence as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. In the eight years since returning from Africa, Lord Greystoke’s story as Tarzan has become legendary among the Victorian public, although Lord Greystoke himself wishes to leave the past behind him. Through the British Prime Minister (Jim Broadbent), he is invited by King Leopold to visit Boma and report on the development of the Congo by Belgium, though Greystoke politely declines the invitation. An American envoy, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who recognises John from the stories of “Tarzan”, privately reveals to John, Lord Greystoke, that he suspects the Belgians are enslaving the Congolese population, and persuades him to accept it in order to prove his suspicions. Jane is disappointed when John tells her that she cannot come, as he believes the trip to be too dangerous, remembering how both his parents died as a result of the jungle’s brutality following their shipwreck there – his mother died of disease, and his father was later killed by the Mangani apes, leaving the baby John to be raised as Tarzan by his ape “mother” Kala and “brother” Akut. However, Jane reminds him that she grew up in Africa as well, and misses her home. John relents, and allows Jane to accompany him.
John, Jane and Williams take their trip to the Congo. There, the trio encounters a tribal village that knew John and Jane during their stay in the jungle. Jane explains to Williams that her husband was once considered an evil spirit by the African tribes, including that of Chief Mbonga. She recalls how, when she was younger, she and her father lived in the tribal village helping to care for local children. There she met Tarzan, who shielded her from a vicious ape attack, saving Jane’s life but was severely injured in the process. Jane took the injured Tarzan home, nursed him back to health, and the two fell in love. That night, as the tribe sleeps, Rom and his mercenaries attack the village and kidnap John and Jane and kill the tribe’s leader. They then escape to a nearby steamboat with Jane and several of the tribe’s members, but Williams is able to rescue John.
With the aid of the tribe’s warriors, John and Williams intercept a Belgian military train carrying captured slaves, providing Williams with the evidence he needs to expose King Leopold. They also discover that Rom intends to use the diamonds to pay for a massive army to subdue the Congo, and allow Belgium to mine its wealth for Leopold’s benefit. As John and Williams continue onward, John encounters the adult Akut, who is now leader of the apes. Aware that Akut considers him a deserter, John challenges him to a fight and loses. That night, as John recovers, Williams recalls the massacres of Native Americans during the Civil War, comparing his actions to be as bad as Rom’s and Leopold’s.
On Rom’s steamboat, Jane dines with Rom, before escaping and swimming to shore. Jane stumbles into an ape nest, where she is rescued by Rom, whose men then shoot and murder many of the apes. John saves the remaining apes, reconciling with Akut, before pursuing Rom. He is cornered by Mbonga and his tribe, where it is revealed that John once killed Mbonga’s only son for previously murdering Kala. A defeated Mbonga tearfully accuses John of lacking honour, as his son was just a young boy when John killed him. John spares Mbonga, just as Akut and the apes arrive to subdue the tribe. Rom takes Jane and the diamonds to Boma, where he plans to take control of the army. John, Williams and Akut trigger a massive stampede of wildebeest through Boma, destroying the town and distracting the soldiers, allowing John to rescue Jane. As Rom attempts to escape by boat, Williams sinks it with a machine gun as John swims aboard. Rom tries to kill John, before John throws Rom into the water, where he is devoured by crocodiles.
Williams returns to England and presents the Prime Minister with evidence exposing the slave trade in the African Congo. One year later, John and Jane, having remained in Africa and settled in Jane’s father’s old house, welcome their first child, as John, Lord Greystoke, returns to his rightful place among the great apes as Tarzan.
Trivia & Goofs
- David Yates asked Margot Robbie to punch Alexander Skarsgård while directing their sex scene. He said, “It is an earthy moment of her enjoying sex with Alex. So I told her just slap Alex while you’re making love. Give him a punch.” Skarsgård said, “David wanted it to be primal and animalistic, so he egged us on. When you first meet them, they are very civilized and buttoned up. But the first sex scene is when they go back to the jungle.” Robbie added, “We definitely got caught up in the moment.”
- Trainer Magnus Lygdback revealed that Alexander Skarsgård impressed the entire cast and crew with his physical transformation. He said, “On the first day of filming, when he took off his shirt for the first time, the first thing you noticed was his huge back. You could hear people whispering; that’s when I knew we had done it.” Margot Robbie added, “Words failed me. My jaw was on the floor. As was everyone else’s in the crew. People stopped working and were staring. Even the men were like, ‘Wow.’ It was amazing. He worked so hard; I am so impressed.”
- In the scene where Jane and Captain Rom are eating dinner, she crosses her fork and knife. The Captain rings the bell and tells the servant Lady Clayton is finished. After she leaves, he places her knife and fork beside each other. In formal dining, when people cross their silverware, it means they did not enjoy the meal. When they are placed next to each other, it means they are finished.
- Margot Robbie dropped out of A Bigger Splash (2015) to do this film instead.
- The movie was released on the same day (July 1, 2016) after thirty years that Jerry Weintraub founded Weintraub Entertainment Group.
- The production originally planned to film at Dinorwig Quarry in North Wales then it was decided to recreate sections of the quarry on the backlot of Leavesden Studios complete with a 100ft waterfall.
Reviews & Reception
The Legend of Tarzan received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a rating of 35%, based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “The Legend of Tarzan has more on its mind than many movies starring the classic character, but that isn’t enough to make up for its generic plot or sluggish pace.” On Metacritic, the film has a score of 44 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A–” on an A+ to F scale.
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, stating “What makes it more enjoyable than a lot of recycled stories of this type is that the filmmakers have given Tarzan a thoughtful, imperfect makeover.” In his review, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone stated “At least it’s watchable. In summer, baby, that’s high praise.”
Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a negative review, stating “A talky and mostly turgid attempt by British director David Yates to build on the epic vision he brought to the final four Harry Potter movies via another beloved literary hero.” Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian criticized the film for its story and writing, stating “Committed performances aren’t enough to save this film from uncomfortable colonial optics, uninspiring CGI and tedious plotlines.”
On April 12, 2016 Margot attended CinemaCon with Alexander Skarsgård, where the duo along with Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz spoke about the movie.
On June 24, 2016 the promotion of The Legend of Tarzan finally started, with Margot attending a private screening of the movie in Los Angeles, California. The world premiere of the movie occurred in Los Angeles, on June 26, followed by the European premiere and other events.
The movie promotion didn’t stop at events and premieres. Margot and her co-star Alexander Skarsgård made a couple of TV appearances while promoting the movie in Los Angeles and London.
The film’s score was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. The soundtrack was released on June 16, 2016 by WaterTower Music and on CD on 24 June 2016. Hozier provided a single, Better Love, which was played at the film’s end credits
|• Movie B-Roll
• “Jane” Featurette
|• “Story” Featurette
• On Set Interview