Review - 'The Legend of Tarzan'
What a disappointment. There is so much talent behind and in front of the camera in this film that you'd think that at the very least it would have been entertaining. Nope. Despite a few inspired moments and some decent acting, The Legend of Tarzan is one of the most dull blockbusters to come out this year.
The Legend of Tarzan follows Tarzan who has adapted to a more domesticated life with Jane in London. He is called back into the Jungle when he learns of a hostile take-over by a rich industrialist.
The Legend of Tarzan is not a terrible film. That said, this film also doesn't really do anything well either. The root of this film's problems start with the plot structure. Director David Yates was onto something good when he decided to tell a Tarzan story that takes place after the events we've all seen in countless past iterations. Then, instead of telling a completely fresh story, Yates decided to inter-splice countless flashbacks of how Tarzan became Tarzan, because apparently we forgot. These flashbacks take up a good chunk of the film's brief hour-and-forty-five-minute run-time and leave little time for the central story to flex its muscles. One could say the new story wasn't strong enough to stand on its own but then we'd have to argue why this film was even made in the first place.
There's really nothing compelling about this film's story, and when it's constantly jumping back to moments in Tarzan's history, you kind of get the sense that the filmmakers began to realize that as well. If we were to strip the film of its origin flashbacks it's essentially about a white man liberating a bunch of natives during which Jane gets captured so he has to save her from the villain as well. All the while you get to bask in the glory of Aleksander Skarsgard's entirely dull interpretation of Tarzan.
Speaking of the cast; this film has a great one, but they're totally misused. Aleksander Skarsgard is the most unlikable Tarzan I've ever seen. No, I'm not being overly dramatic. He's self-serious and doesn't ever have anything memorable to say. I don't want to say his performance is bad; it's just completely unfitting for Tarzan. Margot Robbie plays Jane, who despite the filmmaker's efforts to make her a tough character, is still reduced to Damsel-in-distress mode for about 75% of the film. When you get Margot Robbie in your movie, you do NOT reduce her to that type of role. Ugh. Then we have Samuel L. Jackson, who is probably the one bright spot, but it's only because he acts in the way that you'd expect him to. With how dour this film tries to be, it can't quite put a damper of Jackson, which is comforting. Finally there's Christoph Waltz, who has to be sick of playing these one-note villain characters. There's almost no distinguishing his performance here from his portrayal of Blofeld in Spectre. I mean, he's got rosary beads that he chokes people with in this, so I guess that's something different.
The special effects in The Legend of Tarzan aren't even that good. I'll say that the jungle is well-conceived and sometimes the animals that inhabit it look convincing. For the most part though, the effects-work is severely lacking. When Tarzan swings, it's like his rope is tied to a mile-high roller-coaster that zips above the jungle in whichever direction he pleases. I could also tell that his character was a CG-model for most of these scenes because he didn't move in a way that looked human. The finale is also a jumbled mess of hundreds of poorly-rendered animals.
One of the unquestionably positive aspects of the film is the music by Rupert Gregson-Williams. I liked the themes on display here as they added an epic sense of wonder to the film that it honestly didn't deserve.
Despite how down on this movie I've been, it really isn't THAT awful, just sorely lacking in just about every category. The biggest knock against The Legend of Tarzan is the fact that by its very nature it should have been a fresh story, yet it remains entirely predictable. There was no point in the film where I didn't know what was going to happen. In addition to this the effects are lacking, Skarsgard's interpretation of Tarzan is uninspiring and the film really doesn't have much of an identity to call its own. Just stay home and watch the Disney animated version again.