The Legend of Tarzan (film)

The Legend of Tarzan is a 2016 adventure film based on the fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Directed by David Yates, with a screenplay by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer,[4] the film stars Alexander Skarsgård as the title character, with Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, and Christoph Waltz in supporting roles. Principal photography began on June 21, 2014, at Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios in the United Kingdom and wrapped four months later on October 3.

The Legend of Tarzan
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Yates
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Craig Brewer
  • Adam Cozad
Based on
Music byRupert Gregson-Williams
CinematographyHenry Braham
Edited byMark Day
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • June 27, 2016 (2016-06-27) (Dolby Theatre)
  • July 1, 2016 (2016-07-01) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
  • Australia
  • United Kingdom
  • United States[2]
Budget$180 million[3]
Box office$356.7 million[3]

The film premiered at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on June 29, 2016, and was theatrically released in the United States on July 1, 2016, in 2D, 3D, IMAX and IMAX 3D.[5] The film grossed over $356 million against a budget of $180 million and received mixed reviews from critics.


As a result of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, the Congo Basin is claimed by King Leopold II of the Belgians, who rules the Congo Free State in personal union with the Kingdom of Belgium. The country is on the verge of bankruptcy because Leopold has borrowed huge sums of money to finance the construction of railways and other infrastructure projects. He sends his envoy Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to secure the fabled diamonds of Opar. Rom's expedition is ambushed and massacred: He is the sole survivor. The tribal leader, Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), offers Rom diamonds in exchange for an old enemy: Tarzan.

The man once called "Tarzan", John Clayton III (Alexander Skarsgård), has left Africa behind and settled down on his ancestral estate with his American wife, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie). Jane grew up in Africa, among the people who became Tarzan’s first human friends. He is a peer of the realm, the fifth Earl of Greystoke, and is therefore addressed as Lord Greystoke. In addition to the status, rights and privileges that go with the title, he has inherited great wealth. In the eight years since his return from Africa, the story of his life as Tarzan has been published and is now legendary among the Victorian public, but John wants to leave that past behind. Through the British Prime Minister (Jim Broadbent), King Leopold of the Belgians invites Lord Greystoke to visit Boma and report on the development of the Congo Free State and the success of anti-slavery measures. The prime minister points out that this is an opportunity for Britain to get a foot in the Congo: King Leopold is defaulting on his loans. (The Congo was the personal private property of King Leopold.) Greystoke refuses. An American envoy, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who is tired of wasting time, bluntly lays out the publicity advantages to Leopold and the potentially great financial advantages to England. Greystoke refuses.

Outside 10 Downing Street, Williams stops Greystoke and privately reveals his suspicions that Leopold is enslaving the Congolese population to recoup his debts and “keep the Congo working.” Williams persuades Greystoke to go to the Congo in order to prove his suspicions and tell the world the truth.

Flashbacks, sometimes very brief, are scattered through the film. They show pieces of John’s past and glimpses of his memories, beginning at this point with the death of his mother (Genevieve O’Reilly); his father’s (Hadley Fraser) slaughter at the hands of the Mangani, a tribe of great apes (not gorillas); his adoption by Kala (Madeleine Worrell); his bond with his ape foster brother Akut; and the lifelong enmity of Kerchak (William Wollen), the jealous leader of the Mangani.

Jane is thrilled to go home to Africa and see the beloved friends with whom she grew up. Greystoke says that she should not come. He thinks the trip would be too dangerous: Jane recently had a miscarriage and he remembers the harshness of the jungle. Jane reminds him that she grew up in Africa as well, and misses her home and friends there. John relents, and allows Jane to accompany him after she promises to stay with the tribe while John and Williams investigate.

John, Jane, and Williams take the trip to the Congo. There, the trio circumvent the diplomatic envoy and official entry points and travel without bearers to the village of their youth, where they are met with a great celebration. In a story illustrated by a flashback, Jane explains to Williams that her husband was once considered an evil spirit by the African tribes. Jane was an object of curiosity to the young Tarzan, and Tarzan first revealed himself to her during a childhood game of hide and seek. Later, he saved her life by covering her body with his own and taking the crushing blows when Kerchak attacked her. The villagers carried his broken body back to the Porter’s lodge and Jane nursed him back to health.

Frustrated by John's deviation from the travel plan, Rom and his mercenaries raid the sleeping village after the celebration. They kill the tribe's leader, capture John and Jane, and kidnap many villagers for use as slaves. John is rescued by Williams, but Rom's crew takes the remaining captives, including Jane, on board their steamship on the nearby river. Rom intends to use Jane as bait to lure John, and is surprised and admiring of Jane's vibrant tenacity and ferociousness. Rom also reveals that John's state invitation from King Leopold was engineered by Rom, and Rom intends to deliver Tarzan to Chief Mbonga.

John and Williams, with the aid of the tribe's remaining warriors, travel through the jungle, hoping to use the new Belgian railway to intercept the steamship and rescue their loved ones. After a daring race to overtake and board a Belgian military train, the group discovers the train is carrying captured slaves. An engineer who builds bridges on the railways shows them a map with the details of Rom's plan—sanctioned by King Leopold—to take over the Congo using slave labor, newly built and fully equipped forts, a railway network to tie them together—and a massive mercenary army which has not yet appeared. The only thing needed are the Opar diamonds. Leopold has nearly bankrupted himself paying for the initial stages of the plan, and requires the diamonds to pay for the army of mercenaries needed to complete his takeover and see a return on his investment. With the map, a copy of a proclamation making it against the law to pay natives for work and a ledger documenting all the slaves taken so far, William now has the evidence he needs to expose King Leopold.

John and Williams task the warriors with returning the released slaves to their homes and then delivering the evidence to the port city of Boma via the railway, while John and Williams continue on through the jungle to catch the steamship where Jane and the others are held.

They have no choice but to go through Mangani territory. As John and Williams continue, John encounters the adult Akut (Matt Cross) who was raised as his ape brother and now is leader of the apes. Aware that Akut considers him a deserter, John must fight Akut for permission to travel through their territory. John soon loses, but the pair are permitted to travel on. Williams closes John’s wounds with biting ants and repositions his dislocated shoulder. Williams recalls his work as an Indian fighter and the massacres of Native Americans during the Indian Wars, comparing them to the abuses of Rom and Leopold, blaming himself. Elephants, one an old friend, come to John and William in the forest, and their presence eases their pain.

Jane escapes Rom's clutches on the steamship, warning a prisoner in a cage who is dropped into the river and then jumping from the boat and swimming to the shore past angry hippos. She sends him to get help. Her flight through the jungle is halted when she stumbles into a group of mangani apes, and must make a show of deference to avoid them attacking. Rom approaches the apes, making the gesture of deference as Jane promises to return with Rom in exchange for the apes being unharmed, but Rom's nervous men shoot, leading to slaughter. John saves the remaining apes, reconciling with Akut, before pursuing Rom, who is now fleeing in the direction of Mbonga's tribe with Jane in tow in the hopes of delivering Tarzan to them and receiving his payment of diamonds.

Seizing a fallen blade, John runs to rescue Jane. He is surrounded by Mbonga’s tribe. It is revealed that, years before, John killed Mbonga's only son because he had just killed Kala, John’s adoptive ape mother, during his rite of passage. John tries to warn Mbonga of what will happen, that Rom will return with his army to take all the diamonds and enslave the people of Opar. With John’s knife at his throat, a defeated Mbonga accuses John of lacking honor, as his son was just a young boy when John killed him. John agrees that he had no honor then and spares Mbonga, just as Akut and the Manganis arrive to subdue the tribe. Williams adds his voice to John’s warning of extinction—he has seen it happen.

Rom takes Jane and the diamonds to Boma, where he plans to take control of the mercenary army waiting offshore. John and Williams, with the help of Akut and John's lion friends, send a massive stampede of wildebeest through Boma, destroying the town, the soldiers and their munitions. John rescues Jane. As Rom attempts to escape with the diamonds by boat, Williams fills it full of holes with a machine gun as John swims aboard. Rom incapacitates John by strangling him with his spider-silk rosary and then tying him by the neck to the ship's railing, before trying to escape again. As part of a running joke about John knowing all the mating calls, he summons a float of crocodiles, who rush to the sinking boat. The spider silk breaks, John overpowers Rom and leaves him to be devoured by crocodiles and escapes the vessel before its boiler explodes. The ships carrying the mercenaries weigh anchor and leave.

Williams returns to England and presents the Prime Minister with an open letter addressed to King Leopold II telling him of the evidence exposing the slave trade and abuses of the Congolese in the lands held by him. One year later, the vast Greystoke estate is empty. John and Jane have settled in Africa, in the old house of Jane's father. John returns to his place among the great apes as Tarzan and he and Jane celebrate the birth of their child.




An updated version of Tarzan had been in the works since at least 2003, with John August writing.[19] However, by 2008, it was reported that a different version, co-written by Stephen Sommers and Stuart Beatle, that was said to resemble the Pirates of the Caribbean series, was in development.[20][21] By 2011, Craig Brewer, who also rewrote a version of the script, was set to direct the film,[22] although this did not come to pass. Instead, David Yates was chosen to direct in 2012.[4] Other directors in the running included Susanna White and Gary Ross.[23] In April 2013, it was reported that the production was temporarily suspended due to budgetary concerns.[24]


For a while, producer Jerry Weintraub (no relation to the 50s and 60s Tarzan producer Sy Weintraub) wanted swimmer Michael Phelps to play the title role, feeling that he was the heir apparent to Johnny Weissmuller, the actor who had famously played Tarzan, and who was also a prominent competitive swimmer. Weintraub reportedly changed his mind after watching Phelps host Saturday Night Live, for only two minutes.[25] Other early contenders for the role included Henry Cavill, Tom Hardy, and Charlie Hunnam.[4][26] On November 14, 2012, Alexander Skarsgård was cast in the title role, the choice of director Yates, while Samuel L. Jackson was being eyed to play Williams in the film.[6] Yates found Skarsgård to be the perfect Tarzan. He liked that he was born in Sweden but had found a career in America, so "he has this wonderful quality of not quite belonging to one or the other", he said.[7] On March 6, 2013, it was reported that Yates wanted Jessica Chastain to play the female lead role, Jane Porter.[27] On September 26, 2013, Christoph Waltz was in talks to play the villain in the film; he was later cast, as Captain Rom.[10]

The studio eyed Margot Robbie and Emma Stone to play the female lead character, Jane Porter.[11] Emma Watson (who worked with Yates on the last four Harry Potter films), Sarah Bolger, Georgina Haig, Lucy Hale, Lyndsy Fonseca, Eleanor Tomlinson, Gabriella Wilde, Lucy Boynton and Cressida Bonas were all considered for the part. On January 18, 2014, Robbie was confirmed to play the female lead, Jane, in the film, opposite Skarsgård, beating Stone for the role.[13] On June 4, Djimon Hounsou was set to play Chief Mbonga in the film.[14] On June 17, Osy Ikhile was added to the cast to play a supporting role, but the character was not then named.[28] Casper Crump was cast to play Captain Kerchover.[15] The release of the first trailer in December 2015 revealed that Jim Broadbent was also part of the cast.


Principal photography on the film commenced on June 30, 2014, at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, England.[29][30] Filming had begun on the day an announcement was made for the expansion of the studio.[31] Filming wrapped the same year on October 3.[32] Filming took place for a total of 70 days.[33] According to The Wall Street Journal, shooting the film in Africa would have made the budget even higher.[34]

Making Africa seem authentic was especially important to the filmmakers, since the film was shot in England, except for six weeks in Gabon, filming background by helicopter without the cast. A working waterfall and a 100-foot-long collapsible pier were assembled at Warner Bros.’ Leavesden studios.[34][35] Seven versions of the African jungle were constructed to show different scenery throughout the filming. Plants from Holland were mixed with trees sculpted by the art department. Kedleston Hall stood in for the Greystoke Manor, and a cedar tree on the grounds of Highclere Castle served as the setting for an early pivotal scene between Tarzan and Jane.[35]


The Legend of Tarzan: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album / Film score by
ReleasedJune 16, 2016 (digital)
June 24, 2016 (physical)
GenreFilm score
LabelWaterTower Music
ProducerRupert Gregson-Williams
Rupert Gregson-Williams film scores chronology
The Do-Over
The Legend of Tarzan: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Hacksaw Ridge
Singles from The Legend of Tarzan: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  1. "Better Love"
    Released: 2016

The film's score was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. The soundtrack was released on June 16, 2016 by WaterTower Music and on CD on June 24, 2016. Tony Clarke,[36] Thomas Farnon,[37] and Tom Howe[38] are credited for additional music. Hozier provided a single, Better Love, which is played at the film's end credits.[39]

Track listing

All music is composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, except where noted.

1."Opar"Zoe Mithyane3:28
2."Diamonds" 4:50
3."Togetherness" 1:44
4."Steamer and Butterfly" 2:40
5."Orphaned" 2:46
6."Returning Home" 4:01
7."Campfire" 2:40
8."Tarzan and Jane" 3:39
9."Village Ambush" 4:41
10."Catching the Train" 2:16
11."Rom's Plan" 2:11
12."Akut Fight" 2:16
13."Elephants in the Night" 3:12
14."Jane Escapes" 2:44
15."Jungle Shooting" 2:41
16."Kala's Death" 5:15
17."Where Was Your Honor?" 2:29
18."Boma Port" 4:04
19."Stampede" 4:33
20."On the Boat" 3:10
21."The Legend of Tarzan" 2:36
22."Better Love"Hozier3:23
Total length:71:19


The film was released on July 1, 2016 by Warner Bros., in traditional formats as well as 3D and IMAX 3D.[5]

Home media

The film was released in October 11, 2016, in traditional formats, Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Blu-ray.


Box office

The Legend of Tarzan grossed $126.6 million in the United States and Canada and $230.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $356.7 million.[3] Given its $180 million production budget, it would have had to have earned at least $400 million to break even and justify a sequel. Deadline Hollywood's financial analysts stated that the film lost the studio an estimated $40 million, although the studio itself asserted the film broke even.[40][41]

In the United States and Canada, The Legend of Tarzan opened alongside The BFG and The Purge: Election Year, and was projected to gross to $25–33 million in its opening weekend.[40][42][43] It opened Friday, July 1, 2016 across 3,561 theaters and 6,700 screens, and grossed $14 million on its opening day, including $1.4 million in IMAX showings.[44] This includes $2.6 million it made from Thursday night previews.[45] In its opening weekend, buoyed by positive word of mouth, the film grossed a better-than-expected $38.5 million, of which IMAX contributed $3.9 million, and $45.6 million over its four-day Independence Day holiday frame, finishing second place at the box office behind Finding Dory, but first among new releases. However, despite its opening numbers, Deadline called the film a "dud", due to its lofty budget.[46][47]

Internationally, The Legend of Tarzan received a scattered release pattern, in order to take advantage of the competitive landscape surrounding the 2016 European Championship.[48] It is likely that a recoup of the film's hefty production budget will be dependent on international audiences and returns. Jeff Goldstein, Warner's executive vice president of domestic distribution, told The New York Times, "This property has always really been about the international opportunity."[49] The film opened across 19 markets on the same weekend it debuted in North America, including major territories like Russia and South Korea.[40] In its opening weekend, it grossed $19.3 million on about 6,700 screens, and an IMAX total of $1.2 million from 122 IMAX theaters.[48] In Russia and the CIS, it opened with $3.1 million, debuting in first place at the box office. However, it was the lowest No. 1 opening for a film since April,[50] while in South Korea it debuted at No. 2, with $4 million. In the latter market, it faced significant competition from local films Familyhood and The Hunt, both of which performed strongly.[48][51] In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it came in second place with $4.7 million, including previews, debuting behind the animated The Secret Life of Pets, and in Australia with $3.2 million, behind Finding Dory.[52] Elsewhere, Asia had No. 1 openings in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. The studio also reported No. 1 debuts in Mexico ($4.6 million), Brazil ($3.4 million), Spain ($1.8 million), Italy ($1.6 million), the majority of Eastern European markets, and Puerto Rico.[48][52][53][54] Germany ($2 million), the UAE ($1.6 million), and Japan ($1.5 million) had similar opening figures.[55]

In China – the film's second biggest market – the film was granted a rare release date in the month of July, a peculiar move since July is typically the month when Chinese regulators ban foreign films (including Hollywood films) in order to protect and promote their own local films.[56][57] It opened on Tuesday, July 19, and made $7 million on its opening day. It went on to deliver a six-day opening of around $27 million and a three-day weekend opening of $12 million. Although the opening number was regarded strong, it came in second place, behind Skiptrace, which occupied a market share in excess of 56%, in comparion to The Legend of Tarzan's 16%.[54][58]

In terms of total earnings, its biggest markets outside of the United States are China ($45.1 million), Mexico ($13.7 million) and the U.K. and Ireland ($11.9 million).[59]

Critical response

The Legend of Tarzan received generally mixed reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 36% based on 241 reviews with an average rating of 5.07/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Legend of Tarzan has more on its mind than many movies starring the classic character, but that isn't enough to make up for its generic plot or sluggish pace."[60] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 44 out of 100 based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[61] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[62]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, stating "What makes it more enjoyable than a lot of recycled stories of this type is that the filmmakers have given Tarzan a thoughtful, imperfect makeover."[63] In his review, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone stated "At least it's watchable. In summer, baby, that's high praise."[64]

Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a negative review, stating "A talky and mostly turgid attempt by British director David Yates to build on the epic vision he brought to the final four Harry Potter movies via another beloved literary hero."[65] Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian criticized the film for its story and writing, stating "Committed performances aren’t enough to save this film from uncomfortable colonial optics, uninspiring CGI and tedious plotlines."[66]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Alliance of Women Film Journalists December 21, 2016 Actress Most in Need of a New Agent Margot Robbie (also for Suicide Squad) Nominated [67]
Jupiter Awards March 29, 2017 Best International Actress Margot Robbie Nominated [69]
Saturn Awards June 28, 2017 Best Action or Adventure Film The Legend of Tarzan Nominated [70]

See also


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  5. Kit, Borys (11 February 2014). "Warner Bros. Sets Release Date for Its 3D 'Tarzan' Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
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  9. "How Alexander Skarsgard Got 'Tarzan' Fit".
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