Jungle fever: The Legend of Tarzan reviewed
IT'S been almost 100 years since Edgar Rice Burroughs' muscular protector of the jungle swung into action on the big screen in the swaggering form of silent movie actor Elmo Lincoln.
Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller popularised the iconic role in the 1930s and 1940s before more recent incarnations including Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan with Christopher Lambert and Disney's animated rendering.
Written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer, The Legend Of Tarzan is an entertaining and rumbustious romp that focuses on the love story between the orphaned hero and his plucky sweetheart against a backdrop of late-19th century treachery.
Director David Yates, who worked his magic at the helm of the final four films in the Harry Potter saga, orchestrates vine-swinging action sequences with aplomb, festooned with a menagerie of computer-generated animals that look incredibly realistic in close-up.
Digital might beats its chest in every lush frame including a bone-crunching fight between Tarzan and one of his ape brethren and a terrifying stampede.
However, Yates is careful to stoke the smouldering on-screen embers between an impressively bare-chested Alexander Skarsgard and the luminous Margot Robbie so we root for the lovers when the odds are stacked heavily against them.
It has been many years since Tarzan (Skarsgard) left behind the jungles of Africa to settle into gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Robbie).
The lush paradise of the Congo is a sweet, distant memory until the British prime minister (Jim Broadbent) passes on an invitation from King Leopold II of Belgium to visit the Congo as a trade emissary of Parliament.
John initially refuses, but gun-slinging American envoy George Washington Williams (Samuel L Jackson) persuades the Greystoke heir to go in order to investigate rumours that Leopold has enslaved local tribes to build his railroad.
John, Jane and George depart for the Congo, unaware that they are pawns in a deadly game masterminded by Machiavellian Belgian envoy, Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who has agreed to deliver Tarzan to Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) in exchange for the legendary diamonds of Opar.
A stand-off ensues and Jane is captured as tantalising bait.
"He's Tarzan, you're Jane. He'll come for you," smirks Rom.
Faced with the prospect of losing his soulmate, John gathers together his animal friends and unleashes the primal warrior of the past.
Shot at Warner Bros Studios near Watford and on location around the UK, The Legend Of Tarzan captures the bare necessities of Burroughs's source text with gusto. Skarsgard and Robbie are an attractive pairing, the latter imbuing her heroine with steeliness and resolve.
Two-time Oscar winner Waltz has portrayed too many sadistic schemers in recent years for his turn as the pantomime villain here to send shivers down the spine.
Denizens of the jungle snarl with more ferocity.
THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (12A, 110 mins) Action/Adventure/Romance. Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L Jackson, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent. Director: David Yates
RATING: THREE STARS