***/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras C
starring Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz
screenplay by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, based on the "Tarzan" stories created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
directed by David Yates
by Walter Chaw David Yates's The Legend of Tarzan is at once a long-overdue, if massively-fictionalized, biopic of George Washington Williams's time in the Congo observing colonial Belgium's abuses of the rubber, ivory, and diamond trades; and it's an adaptation, nay, updating of Edgar Rice Burroughs's first five Tarzan books, with heavy creative license taken but the spirit kept largely intact. Although it's more successful as the latter than as the former, both endeavours are carried through with seriousness and intelligence. It's not a perfect film: the editing is terrible, particularly during the action sequences, suggesting this was probably a longer movie truncated out of fear of diluting the "good" bits. I also don't love the washed-out colour palette that paints everything in a blue gloom--at least not as much as Yates seems to, between this and the last four Harry Potter films. And it bears mentioning that Samuel L. Jackson isn't really an actor anymore and that Margot Robbie arguably never has been. Yeah, The Legend of Tarzan is hard to defend objectively. It does, however, understand the appeal of the Tarzan mythos, answering in grand moments why it is that he's found his way into over 200 motion pictures and dozens more serials and television series (live-action and animated). I should disclaim, too, that I read (re-read, in some cases) all 24 original Burroughs Tarzan novels in the weeks leading up to the picture's release. In other words, I'm a big, giant pulp nerd.