It starts with Tarzan, that is, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgard) is living the civilized life in England with his genteel Jane (Margot Robbie). A group of religious worthies want him to go to the Belgian Congo and help out the poor savages there. He declines, but American Samuel L. Jackson convinces him that some bad stuff is happening there, and they should go investigate. Of course, Jane misses home and wants to head back too.
Indeed, bad things are happening, as this is the Congo under King Leopold, noted for vicious inhumanity. Things down there are being run by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who is enslaving the natives with the help of the Leopard Men, led by chief Djimon Hounsou. Two things here:
- This Africa is historical, not a timeless Dark Continent. Rom was a real person, and King Leopold a very real villain.
- I love me some Leopard Men. Always have.
Skarsgard makes an interesting Tarzan, tall and lean, without the broad chest of Weissmuller's Tarzan. Director David Yates said that he wanted to emphasize "verticality", which fits. Also, he doesn't take off his shirt until well into the movie, but when he does, look out - ripped and shredded. There could have been more
Finally, I thought it was interesting that the big conflict in the movie (although submerged) was purely African. The fight with the Belgians was important and full of incident, but what was closest to Tarzan's heart was between him, the apes, and another tribe. It's not exactly Afro-centric in total, but a lot less Euro than I feared.
I doubt that this will make jungle movies popular, like Pirates of the Caribbean did for pirate movies. But we enjoyed it.