“The Legend of Tarzan” Movie Review
With films such as Cinderella and The Jungle Book, it seems that the trend of re-imagining classic stories can be incredibly successful. So naturally, it makes sense that the notorious wild-man, Tarzan, would be the next to get Hollywood treatment. The character first appeared in “Tarzan and the Apes”, a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs that was published in a magazine in 1912, then as a novel two years later. The adventures of Tarzan and his experiences in both the wild and civilization have been explored through literature, radio, film, and television. Thus with so many pre-existing interpretations, you would think The Legend of Tarzan would give us some insight into how the character has been so enduring for decades.
d by David Yates, the film is set in the late 1800s. Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) has left the jungle world behind and is now accustomed to civilian life in London. He has inherited his late father’s estate, is married to Jane Porter (Margo Robbie), and now goes by the name John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. One day he’s invited by King Leopold of Belgium to lead an expedition in the Congo, and although reluctant at first, he eventually agrees to return. But nothing is as it seems. A corrupt Belgium captain named Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) has orchestrated a plan to deliver the ape man to a vengeful tribal chief (Djimon Hounsou) in exchange for diamonds. So with the help of a former soldier (Samuel L. Jackson), Tarzan must tap back into his wild roots and save his kidnapped wife and save the jungle he once called home.
The Legend of Tarzan struggles with an identity crisis. On the one hand it wants to be a grand-scale epic, with a narrative containing the heavy issues of slavery, corruption of business and morality, and a promise to explore the duality of the ape man. Yet at the same time these elements are overshadowed by the film’s emphasis on visuals and cool-looking action sequences. Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Tarzan swing through the trees and go toe-to-toe with guards and gorillas. But, as with the others, his character isn’t developed enough for me to care.
The acting isn’t atrocious, but the actors do at least try to bring something to their roles. Alexander Skarsgard definitely looks the part of Tarzan. But that’s just the physical aspect. In terms of emotion, you can see some sort of conflict reflecting in his eyes, but his performance is by-the-book. He’s strong, he’s serious, he’s animalistic, and he’s loves Jane, but he’s portrayed as being more of a superhero who has a telepathic connection with animals than a man who’s identity is challenged.
Margo Robbie is okay but I was aware that she was attempting to play a character. There’s a moment where she’s proactive, but a minute later she returns as a damsel in distress. Samuel J. Jackson is a fun and humorous sidekick, but that’s the entirety of his character- the sidekick. Christoph Waltz could’ve potentially been a great seedy villain, but while Waltz’s performance is good, there’s nothing interesting about him as a person or about his motivations.
This film is saturated in CGI that looks good in terms of the animals, but looks noticeably fake in terms of setting. Shots of the African plains and the whole of the jungle are great, but there are certain spots throughout the film that look borderline cartoony. And that’s my main problem with the film. It’s very cartoonish, but is asking to be taken seriously. The story stretches itself way too thin and attempts to explore different plot points, but I feel like the majority isn’t fully realized. Sometimes it’s fun, other times it’s slow. The Legend of Tarzan had a lot of potential, but ultimately becomes a relatively enjoyable yet forgettable re-imagining.
Cosmic Grade: 2.8 out of 5 Stars