Grade B-

Far from Africa and already an adult “civilized” in the ways of a proper Englishman, Tarzan (played by Alexander Skarsgard) is lured back to Africa by an American played by Samuel L. Jackson (is there any movie this guy isn’t in?) in order to investigate rumors of Belgians enslaving the inhabitants of The Congo.  Margot Robbie, playing Tarzan’s wife, comes along for the ride because she’s not about to be left behind like some helpless woman — in this movie, Robbie is very much a fighter and familiar with Africa.

Once in Africa, Skarsgard and Robbie are barely getting reacquainted with friends and relatives (the two-legged and four-legged variety) when a mercenary group led by Christoph Waltz kidnaps the couple.  Why?  Well, it turns out Waltz wants Skarsgard so he can deliver The Legend to a tribal chief who wants revenge against Skarsgard.  What’s the tribal chief’s beef?  It’s revealed in one of the flashback sequences — more on this later.  Why would Waltz do this for the chief?  Waltz would get lots of diamonds from the chief.  And what will Waltz do with the diamonds?  Waltz would buy an army of 20,000 mercenaries for his king (the king of Belgium) so that the king can keep his hold on The Congo.   But…the kidnapping goes awry thanks to Jackson’s help and a bunch of angry natives.   Robbie gets taken though, and where she goes, Skarsgard is sure to follow.  And follow he does, running into gorillas, wildebeests, Africans, Belgians, crocodiles, lions, and ostriches in order to save his wife and pretty much all of Africa.

Now, with all this going on, you may be asking if Tarzan’s origin story is here.  Why, yes, yes it is.  But not done in a good way.  First, the origin story of Tarzan is told like a recap.  Save for one poignant scene, the origin lacks depth and detail that fans of the Tarzan story crave.   To make matters worse, the origin story is told in flashback sequences all throughout the movie.  This is called non-linear storytelling; and under the guidance of a competent filmmaker, it works.  Not so in this case.  The transitions from one timeline to the other lacks a connection, making the jumps jarring and confusing.  It ultimately leads to a movie that never finds its stride.  Technically, the pacing is off.  And this is the biggest problem of the movie.  It’s like a jigsaw puzzle: it doesn’t matter how beautiful the picture of the puzzle is — if it’s assembled wrong, it just doesn’t work.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Legend Of Tarzan” is the scene when Skarsgard’s gorilla “brother” approaches Jackson.  Skarsgard tells Jackson to bow down and get into a submissive position.  The gorilla stands before Jackson, and Jackson tells Skarsgard “I’m not licking his nuts!”

“The Legend Of Tarzan” is entertaining enough to be worthy of your time.   But for diehard fans of the Tarzan character, I suggest you watch “Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes,” which I think is the best Tarzan movie ever made.

— M