The Legend of Tarzan is based on characters first created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the novel Tarzan of the Apes, published in 1912. This film is directed by David Yates and the screenplay was written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer. It’s distributed by Warner Bros.

The story is set in the colonial period of the late 1800s. The Congo has been divided between the UK and Belgium, and the Belgian government has gone into heavy debt to build infrastructure. King Leopold II sends an envoy named Léon Rom to find the diamonds of Opar in order to finance further expansion, including an army to enforce Belgian rule. Rom’s crew is massacred, but Chief Mbonga (of Opar?) offers to trade the diamonds for Tarzan. In England, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke is invited by King Leopold to inspect the development in the Congo, but he declines. George Washington Williams, an American envoy, convinces Clayton to go on the mission, as he suspects the Belgians are dealing in slaves. Clayton’s wife Jane née Porter also insists on going along. In Africa they reconnect with a local tribe that knew Clayton as Tarzan. During the night, the village is attacked by Rom, who kills the chief and kidnaps Jane, but Williams manages to rescue Tarzan. The two of them uncover the diamond plot, as well as the slavery operation, while working to rescue Jane. They continue pursuit to the coast, where they have a final confrontation with Rom and the Belgian army.

As a long-time Burroughs fan, I’m hard to satisfy, but mostly I’ll give interpretations of Tarzan a chance. This one is pretty decent. They did a reasonable job of representing Tarzan, who wears only a thin veneer of civilization along with his expensive clothes. The theme of this film is anti-colonialism, of course, and it features a couple of the Congolese tribesmen in visible supporting roles. Williams is an African American and brings the American concerns about slavery to the picture. On the negative side, they didn’t give Jane a whole lot to do and they’ve played fast and loose with some of the details. They’ve rewritten the bit where Tarzan met Jane, and muddled their way through the Opar issue. Opar really is a fabled lost city, and in Burroughs’ stories it’s located in the Congo and inhabited by a tribe of degenerate beast men led by a high priestess—here they’ve made the men of Opar seem like just another group of local tribesmen and I don’t see the priestess anywhere. Also, Opar had nothing to do with the death of Tarzan’s ape mother Kala. Okay, I know, I know. You shouldn’t ever try to make the details of a book and a movie match up. I’m just feeling a little OCD about it.

Three and a half stars.