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Film / The Legend of Tarzan

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"He's Tarzan, you're Jane. He'll come for you."

The Legend of Tarzan is a film in the Tarzan franchise created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, directed by David Yates. Produced by Warner Bros., it was released in July 2016. It stars Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan and Margot Robbie as Jane. The cast also includes Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, and Jim Broadbent.

Eight years have passed since Tarzan, the man raised by apes, left the African jungle for his ancestral home England. He has since married his discoverer Jane Porter and adopted his birth name and hereditary title: John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. Now he has been sent back to Africa on a mission for the British Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a larger conspiracy. When evil forces endanger his old home and those he loves, he becomes the legendary Lord of the Jungle again.

Shares its name with an animated TV series, a Spin-Off of the 1999 Disney film.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

The Legend of Tarzan provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: The friendly Waziri tribe is renamed the Kuba.
  • Adaptational Wimp: A downplayed example with Tarzan. He's still capable of taking down any man in his path and is quite able to endure a great deal of punishment. However, he's most notably not able to defeat apes in battle like past versions of the character have been able to. Possibly justified as a combination of realistic consequences and the fact that he was out of his element for too long.
  • After Action Patch Up: After Akut defeats him in a straight-up fight, Tarzan has his bite wound patched up with termites by George Williams.
  • Age Lift: The original literary version and all other portrayals of Kulonga have had him as a grown man. The film however, portrays him as a boy.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version of the film uses "Nawe, Nawe" by Alexandros as its theme song.
  • Angry, Angry Hippos: Jane escapes into the river with one of the captives, and has to swim to the shore really fast when an angry hippo swims after her.
  • Animal Stampede: At the climax of the film, Tarzan stampedes a herd of wildebeest (with a few lions mixed in) through the city of Boma.
  • The Atoner: George Williams tells Tarzan that he spent several years as a mercenary in Mexico and the U.S. frontier after his U.S. Civil War tour of duty. By his admission he was no different than the people being recruited to subjugate the Congo.
  • Babies Ever After: Tarzan and Jane have a baby in a one-year-later epilogue.
  • Badass Boast: Jane delivers one to Rom on Tarzan's behalf:
    Jane: A normal man can do the impossible to save the woman he loves. My husband is no normal man.
  • Barbarian Longhair: Tarzan has long unkempt hair in flashback scenes, but it's downplayed in present-day scenes after he becomes a English gentleman, as his hair is slightly trimmed to shoulder-length.
  • Battle in the Rain: The fight between Rom's mercenaries and the great apes takes place during a downpour.
  • Battle Strip: Tarzan actually spends most of the movie in hiking clothes, but strips to just his trousers when he's about to fight his ape brother.
  • Big Bad: Captain Léon Rom, named after the real-life historical figure, is the film's villain.
  • Blue Blood: Tarzan is also Lord Greystoke.
  • Brick Joke: At one point, Tarzan messes with Washington by advising that if he ever encounters an ape, he should show submission by bowing and licking its genitals. Later, when they're forced to submit after Tarzan's former ape brother Akut has just finished beating Tarzan to a pulp, Washington dryly asks if he should "lick his [Akut's] nuts".
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted by the lionesses that Tarzan rubs necks with upon returning to Africa.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Tarzan's upbringing has given him amazing strength making him able to lift fully grown men with one arm and toss them around.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tarzan's ability to mimic mating calls.
  • Composite Character: Chief Mbonga's tribe is combined with the Oparians, with Mbonga himself seeming like a member of the Leopard Man cult from the pelt he wears and his claw-like weaponry. The Leopard Society connection is noteworthy as they practiced ritual cannibalism leaving it ambiguous if the whole tribe is cannibalistic, as they were in the Burroughs canon, or solely their chief.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Tarzan is actually on the receiving end courtesy of his "brother", the ape Akut. From his expression beforehand, he fully expects it, too.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Ultimately the true cause of the events of the film. Chief Mbonga's son killed Tarzan's ape mother, and Tarzan killed him in retaliation. In exchange for the diamonds of Opar, Léon Rom must give Tarzan to Mbonga so he may finally get his revenge. Tarzan and Williams are only able to break the cycle by convincing Mbonga of the danger of allowing Rom to succeed.
  • Damsel in Distress: Jane is taken captive by Captain Léon Rom (Waltz) and his mercenaries. Eventually, she takes advantage of this, resulting in the tribes allying against Rom.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Jane tries to escape, and although she eventually is caught again, gets very far.
  • Darkest Africa: This being a Tarzan movie, Congo, naturally, is portrayed in this manner.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Both Jane and Tarzan himself, but especially Jane, who, after being caught by Rom, constantly snarks at him.
    • Samuel L. Jackson is on fine form as George Washington Williams.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Muviro is killed by Rom in contrast to the books where he is still alive by the time Tarzan and Jane's son Korak is full grown and he still leads his warriors.
    • Léon Rom died in 1924 at the age of sixty-four, not in 1889 at the age of thirty.
  • Defiant to the End: Muviro just stares at Léon Rom as he shoots him.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Kerchak is portrayed as being half-blind, something that Edgar Rice Burroughs himself never specified about him.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Even when he's bowing submissively before Akut — a massive ferocious ape who just beat Tarzan to a pulp — Williams dryly asks, "Do you want me to lick his nuts, too?"
  • Establishing Character Moment: Williams is first introduced loudly eating walnuts in the same room where the Prime Minister and his associates are trying to convince Tarzan to go to the Congo to negotiate with King Leopold, whereupon he then interrupts them to declare "And I thought the Civil War was long."
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Djimon Hounsou as Chief Mbonga. Subverted when we learn he's not actually evil.
  • Famed In-Story: Tarzan and Jane. Williams' pitch to Tarzan to take up Leopold's offer to tour the Congo leans heavily on Tarzan's publicity value.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The first time we see Jane, she's telling a rapt group of children that a hippo "can snap a crocodile's back with a single bite". So later on, when Jane and Wasimbu swim through a river filled with hippos to escape from Rom, the audience knows just how much danger they're in.
    • On their first night in Muviro's village, Jane is listening to several jungle calls and identifying each one as a "mating call" right before she and Tarzan engage in a mating ritual of their own. Tarzan later uses a "mating call" — and identifies it as such — to turn Rom into Just Desserts.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: King Leopold II of Belgium; Truth in Television, unfortunately.
  • Historical Domain Character:
  • Historical Fiction: Unlike most Tarzan media, this incarnation plays it up by linking the story to real events. The colonial affairs of the Congo Free State, a precursor to the Belgian Congo personally owned by the king of Belgium, form the backdrop to the film.
  • Honorable Elephant: After his failed battle with Akut, Tarzan meets an elephant herd moving through the forest, and he and Williams interact with them peacefully. Tarzan says that one Congolese tribe says that the eyes of an elephant hold the richest language in the world: "What else could make you feel so much without saying a word?"
  • I Have Your Wife: Subverted. Rom kidnaps Jane knowing Tarzan will come for her, though it is Tarzan, not him, who actually quotes this trope.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Williams shoots off a Belgian soldier's earlobes from a short distance away to intimidate him into lowering his gun.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Rom uses a weaponized rosary to garrote his foes.
  • Instant Knots: Rom is able to do this with Madagascar spider silk rosary, getting it to wrap around and grapple whatever target he chooses; such as Jane's wrist during dinner, or Tarzan's throat during the final fight. Tarzan snaps the rosary.
  • Ironic Echo: Jane, early on, hears a number of animals' mating calls, which she repeatedly mentions as mating calls. Tarzan uses this in the final battle to summon a group of crocodiles to kill Leon Rom.
  • Just Desserts: Rom gets devoured by crocodiles at the end.
  • Jerkass: Aside from gleefully participating in slavery, Rom's European mercenaries taunt Tarzan when they capture him by making sneering jokes about him being a 'monkey boy' and comparing Jane to a baboon.
  • Killer Gorilla: In this version (just like in the book) the tribe of great apes kill Tarzan's father. They are explicitly called the Mangani and distinguished from gorillas.
  • Kick the Dog: Rom, after promising Jane not to shoot the apes after encountering them, orders his soldiers to do it anyway. He comes to regret it.
  • Like a Son to Me: Muviro refers to Jane as his "American daughter". Her biological father Professor Porter is briefly mentioned but unseen.
  • Light Is Not Good: Léon Rom wears white all the time and is involved in slavery.
  • The Load: Tarzan treats George this way when the latter insists on coming along to help rescue Jane and the kidnapped tribe members, but ends up being grateful George tagged along not long after.
  • Loincloth: Absent in flashback scenes as Tarzan is naked, and in present-day jungle scenes Tarzan wears knee-length pants (breeches). The loin-cloth returns in the film's final scenes.
  • Made of Iron: Tarzan takes a LOT of punishment in the course of the film, from getting savagely pummeled and bitten by his ape brother, getting stabbed by one of Mbonga's men, getting shot, and finally almost getting strangled by a rosary, without getting slowed down one bit. After all of that, it's a miracle he hasn't collapsed from all the punishment he's taken.
  • Mighty Whitey: Tarzan is on good terms with one of the local tribes and near the end he seemingly establishes a Defeat Means Friendship relationship with Chief Mbonga and his tribe. However, the film makes an effort to downplay this as the tribes are treated as equals, and Jane's backstory is changed so that she grew up in Africa among the former tribe. Also, whereas past incarnations of Tarzan are able to defeat apes in battle, this version of Tarzan is unable to do so.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Not just Tarzan but just about every main male character is attractive from the fit African tribal men to the well dressed Samuel L. Jackson and Waltz.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jane, who is played by Margot Robbie, and gets a wet dress.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Rom tells Jane: "He's Tarzan, you're Jane. He'll come for you." George also outright says "Me Tarzan, You Jane" in an attempt to get Tarzan back to Africa.
    • Tarzan's yell in this movie sounds almost, but not quite, like Johnny Weissmuller's famous yodel in the 1930s films. Rom lampshades this by remarking that he recognizes the call but it doesn't sound exactly like he expected.
    • Though they're never mentioned via name, in a flashback Tarzan is obviously saving a smaller ape from Sheeta, and in present day meets up once again with Tantor and his herd.
    • Tarzan has a final battle with the film's villain Rom on a boat, which inevitably explodes. Similar to an unused sequence from Disney's own Tarzan film.
  • Naked First Impression: When Tarzan and Jane first meet as teenagers, since his loincloth is absent.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Several man-eating crocodiles appear in the finale but Tarzan is able to use a mating call to lure them to eat Rom. Subverted by a small pet crocodile that Rom passes in the streets of Boma.
  • No, Mister Bond, I Expect You To Dine: Rom invites Jane to dine with him while she is his captive on his riverboat; with the understanding that if she refuses, he will drop her friend into the river to be eaten by crocodiles.
  • No-Sell: Tarzan is already losing his fight with Akut when he whacks him with a pretty hefty club. The club shatters on impact and the only sign Akut gives of the blow even landing is to kick Tarzan's ass much more thoroughly.
  • Oh, Crap!: George's reaction to seeing Akut, whom Tarzan will fight, is "Christ Almighty! That's Akut?!"
  • Razor Floss: Rom's Madagascar spider silk rosary... unassuming at first, until he uses it to grasp or choke someone out.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Akut and Kala, two Mangani who never met in the books, are son and mother in this and thus Akut is Tarzan's adoptive brother.
  • Recursive Canon: Williams shows Tarzan a pulpy-looking book about him, implying that Burroughs' novels are sensationalized accounts of true events.
  • Rescue Romance: Flashbacks imply that this is how the Tarzan/Jane relationship got going. He saves her from an angry Mangani by making himself a Human Shield, leading her to save him by taking him back to the village for medical treatment.
  • Say My Name: Leon calls out Tarzan's name and then his real name John before Tarzan drops him into the crocodile-infested water.
  • Scary Black Man:
    • The tribesmen of Opar led by Chief Mbonga appear to be these, but we ultimately learn that Mbonga is just a mourning father.
    • And George Washington Williams only plays this straight when he's shooting people to defend Tarzan. Otherwise, he's somewhat a Fish out of Water.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The 20,000 Belgian soldiers and mercenaries about to disembark at Boma see their pay go to the bottom of the harbor, the port leveled, and lots of hostile natives (many with rifles) surrounding what is left of the port. They weigh anchor and sail off, not wanting to fight a numerically superior enemy who has just seized their port seemingly effortlessly.
  • Signature Roar: It's Tarzan, of course. However, it's less of a yodel, and more of an actual roaring shout.
  • Shown Their Work: The African tribe points out that, for the most part, gorillas are gentle creatures that just want to be left alone. The apes that raised Tarzan, however, are some unique form of Killer Gorilla that they view with no undue amount of fear.
  • Somber Backstory Revelation: Tarzan's ally Captain George Washington Williams admits to Tarzan following an After Action Patch Up where he used termites to treat a shoulder wound that Tarzan's Mangani brother Akut gave him that after he fought in the Civil War, his eagerness for combat made him turn into a Sociopathic Soldier who ended up killing countless native Americans, which makes him feel like he's no better than the Belgian colonialists they're fighting against.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In the original books, Tarzan killed Kerchak once he came of age. Here, Kerchak's still alive when a grown Tarzan returns to Africa, but Akut has replaced him as the Mangani leader.
  • Spiteful Spit: Léon Rom tells Jane to scream for Tarzan, instead she spit at his face. He calmly wipes off the spit and says that Tarzan will come for her anyways.
  • Traintop Battle: Tarzan and the tribesmen make a Vine Swing down on to the top of the moving slave train, where they dispose of the guards on top of the train.
  • Truer to the Text: Tarzan's English, Jane's American, his mother died from disease, his father by the Mangani, and the apes that raised Tarzan are explicitly identified as Mangani, not gorillas.
  • Use Your Head: Jane escapes Rom's steamship by headbutting one of his men down before jumping into the river.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Tarzan and Dr. Williams become this over the course of the film.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Tarzan after returning to the jungle.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mbonga to Tarzan when he has him at knife point, over Tarzan killing his son.
    Tarzan: Your son killed the only person who ever cared about me!
    Mbonga: It was an animal!
    Tarzan: She was my mother!
    Mbonga: [choking up] How was he to know? My son was just a boy! Not like you! Where was your honor?!
    Tarzan: [lowering his knife] I had none. I had none.