Many years after leaving the Congolese jungle, the place where he was raised by gorillas, John Clayton III or ‘Tarzan’ is lured back in order to save the Congo from slavers and the Belgian desire for its resources. Knowing that ambitious Léon Rom is determined to deliver him to a bloodthirsty tribal chief, John takes the risk to protect the land he cares for. Will the experiences of his former life be enough to stop those who wish to harm the animals and people who helped raise him or will the overly ambitious and aggressive Europeans overwhelm his desire to protect those he considers his family?

The Legend of Tarzan (2016) – Director: David Yates

Is The Legend of Tarzan appropriate for kids

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Rating: 12

Running Length: 110 mins

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz 

REVIEW

Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel ‘Tarzan’, ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ makes the unusual decision to look at Tarzan’s life many years after he has returned from the jungle, intermingled with a few relevant flashbacks. Rather than taking the easy way out and simply remaking the same old story, the plot focuses on the man who is now civilised, educated and married and unrecognisable as someone who was once a ‘wild man’. His desire to help the land he loves takes him back there and while he never loses his composure, his ability to return to the mentality of his former self is seamless.

Alexander Skarsgård is cast perfectly in the eponymous role, convincing as someone who has come a long way from animalistic beginnings to stoic, proud and dignified without it damaging his psyche. Margot Robbie, who plays his wife, Jane, is good as a tough, independent but entirely feminine woman and Christoph Waltz’s villain, Léon Rom, is a man of his time, brave, ambitious and lacking in compassion but not evil. Samuel L. Jackson provides the lighter relief as the wisecracking George Washington Williams but he too has a not-so-glorious past, giving him depth that wasn’t exactly necessary but adds so much more to his character. The film itself may disappoint some who are looking for all-out action but this drama-led movie is anything but boring. Taking its time over the plot and doing justice to its major themes of slavery and the historic barbarism of so-called civilised cultures without ever becoming political or graphic, ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ becomes much more than a fictional story and is all the better for it.

‘The Legend of Tarzan’ fills the screen with beautiful landscapes, impressive effects and complex cultures that captivate its audience, bringing both the fictional and real sides of the story to life. Each character has realistic motivations and the movie as a whole displays a fine balance of exciting action and thought-provoking drama, this is a film to outdo its predecessors and be more than just another in a line of remakes.

IS ‘THE LEGEND OF TARZAN’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

The opening scene is quite violent, a number of natives are killed by a machine gun and their bodies are seen lying on the ground from a distance with gunshot wounds and some blood. Some men are also killed in a massacre; quick camera cuts ensure that nothing gory is seen but this attack lasts a number of minutes and the use of weapons makes the strength of the violence clear that each man is killed outright. One of the men is seen from the back as he is stabbed from the front, he grunts in pain and lurches slightly before falling to the floor.

A woman walks into a cabin in darkness and hears a noise. She is initially apprehensive but when she hears an animal sound, she recognises it as a ‘mating call’, this is followed by the ‘mating calls’ of several other animals. A man who has been making these sounds approaches her, kisses her passionately, they fall into bed together and are physically intimate, the camera cuts before anything graphic is seen.

A village of natives are captured by slavers, they hold everyone at gunpoint and the villagers are terrified, screaming and crying in fear; a number of the villagers are taken as slaves. Slavery is a major aspect of the movie and a train is shown to be carrying dozens of men who are chained and forced to stand up, presumably for a long period of time. They all look depressed, scared but also resigned to their predicament.

A man is put into a cage which is then held over the side of a boat, another character is forced to comply with their captors in order to stop the caged man from being dropped into the water and drowned. The man shows no fear but this threatened method of murder could be quite disturbing for some kids.

Several gorillas are shot in cold blood and their bodies are seen on the ground, no blood is seen but the pleasure the men take in the killings is likely to be upsetting for kids who are concerned about animal cruelty.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is an excellent adventure story that unusually mixes plenty of drama and character depth to make a three dimensional story which engages with its audience. Due to some violence, we feel this movie should be suitable for most kids aged seven and over however we recommend caution as the more adult themes of slavery and oppression could be upsetting for some children.

  • Violence: 3/5 (animal on animal violence and some towards humans, mostly no stronger than what might be seen on a nature documentary but as its a lot more up-close, it could be quite strong for younger kids. A man is killed by gorillas, several of them surround him and after a short period of time, attack. He screams and tries to protect himself with his arms but they beat him violently. This is shown on camera for several seconds but his actual death occurs off-screen. A number of bodies are seen in silhouette that have been strung up as if crucified. Nothing is mentioned of how or why these people died but the imagery is a little disturbing)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (an established ‘good’ character is killed in cold blood, their loved ones are distressed by his initial killing and then are seen to be mourning over his body. A gorilla is killed that is loved by Tarzan, he holds them as they die and tears form in his eyes)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (some intense scenes with animals, especially gorillas which show extreme aggression)
  • Sexual Content: 3/5 (When Jane and Tarzan first meet, he is still fully immersed in his life as a gorilla. As such, he is entirely naked and, when he steps out from behind a plant, Jane is shocked by what she sees and becomes very embarrassed although the camera only shows Tarzan from the waist up)
  • Bad Language: 3/5 (infrequent mild cursing and blasphemy, one moderate blasphemous phrase a strong curse word are used. A character is threatened by a gorilla and asks someone nearby if he has to ‘lick his balls’, this phrase is used a few more times to humorous effect) 
  • Dialogue: 0/5
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of slavery, oppression, an unusual upbringing, having a love of animals and indigenous people, revenge, greed, ambition and protecting those you care about, regardless of the risks.

Words by Laura Record

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