Norman T. Ray is a regular commenter on The Tarzan Files
The last live-action Tarzan movie was released in 1998, and the least that can be said about it is that it didn’t make a lasting impression. In that regard it’s odd to see that both “Tarzan and the Lost City” and “The Legend of Tarzan” share many similarities! Both begin in London where Tarzan leads a gentrified life as John Clayton the Third. Particular circumstances lead him back to Africa, where he has to deal with a chief mercenary whose men are in love with their Gatling machinegun…
So, what makes the difference in this new and excellent Legend of Tarzan? First, the actors. If Casper Van Dien indeed had the physicality worthy of Tarzan, his character wasn’t very complex. Alexander Skarsgard gives us on the other hand every facet of a much more complicated character than we saw before. He highlights both the animal side of the character, and his more civilized… and funny side! We sometimes forget how humor always played a part in the character as he was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. A somewhat cynical humor, and sometimes even quite dark. But I didn’t expect the best joke of the movie to be of sexual nature! You’ll see, it’s somewhat crude but very effective! Not sure how the Old Master would have reacted though… The character of Jane is very well acted by Margot Robbie, but contrary of what you will read in interviews, the screenwriters and filmmakers do all they can to hide the fact that Jane is indeed, in the movie, a true damsel in distress!
As in 1998, the movie uses the Opar City in the script, but still without featuring its inhabitants, including the beautiful priestess La, a character very well known and loved by fans!
But what really makes a huge difference in this movie, is the jungle itself. In “Tarzan and the Lost City “, the jungle is pretty much Disneyland. “It’s a wonderful life” in the jungle. Everything here is bright, we’re having fun in the trees… Nothing of the sort in the new movie. The jungle is as Burroughs writes about it in 1912, the place of every danger. It’s dark, moisty, hostile, and the creatures that lives there are dangerous, and first of all the Manganis. Gorillas? No, and it’s pointed out in the movie. Gorillas are sweet compared to Manganis!