LEGEND OF TARZAN
Directed by: –David Yates
Produced by: – Jerry Weintraub, David Barron, Alan Riche, Tony Ludwig
Starring: – Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, Christoph Waltz
Edgar Rice Burroughs creation, Tarzan is not a stranger to the silver screen. According to the Internet Movie Database there are at least 200 movies with Tarzan in the title between 1918 & 2014. I find this obscure fact amazing considering that the only iteration that most people (myself included) tend to remember is Disney’s 37th animated feature simply titled Tarzan. To the uninitiated, most takes on the character including the original novels depict Tarzan as the archetypal feral child who is raised in the African jungles by the Mangani great apes; who later experiences civilization only to reject it and return to the jungle as an adventurer who has the ability to perform super-human feats and also talks to animals.
The Legend of Tarzan is a period piece that draws its inspiration from Edgar Rice Burroughs writings. This film takes place nearly a decade since Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), Who now refers himself as John Clayton III, left Congo to live in Victorian England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). All is well but back in Congo there is unrest as Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a devious envoy for King Leopold of Belgium, devises a scheme to lure Tarzan to the Congo and deliver him to an old enemy, Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) in exchange for diamonds which will assist King Leopold in taking over the Congo. When Jane gets captured, Tarzan must go back to his inner roots by going back into the jungle with his new friend George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) to save the woman he loves as well as save free the enslaved locals of Congo.
This film marks Warner Bros. turn to give their spin on one of cinema’s iconic character. Under the direction of David Yates of the Later Harry Potter films (Order of the phoenix to the Deathly Hallows Part 2) and a talented cast featuring two time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, acting legend Samuel L. Jackson and current Hollywood superstar Margot Robbie as well as respected actor, Alexander Skarsgård; this movie is blessed with the potential to become a classic summer block-buster. With that in mind lets take a look at the positives and negatives.
- Lets start with the main man himself Tarzan. Alexander Skarsgård does a really good job portraying the iconic character that swings from vines and communicates with animals as a result of his upbringing by a female ape. Skarsgård looks like he was born to play the character. Not only is he tall and good-looking, he is in extremely good shape and definitely portrays the physicality of the character well. It was believable watching him take on Gorillas in hand-to-hand combat. The only issue I have with this performance is the delivery of some of his lines. They just don’t sound good and he looked a bit stiff during the earlier scenes in London. He was definitely at his best once he was allowed to act like the king of the jungle.
- Samuel L. Jackson was a surprise inclusion in the film. In this iteration of Tarzan he plays the character George Washington Williams, an American entrepreneur and a veteran of the American Civil War. He suspects that the Belgians are enslaving the Congolese population and chooses to assist Tarzan and Jane in their adventure to stop Rom. The legend that is Jackson is the comic relief in this movie and acts as the eyes for the audience who witnesses the super-human acts Tarzan does. He genuinely was a highlight for the movie and made me chuckle a few times with his quips and actions. That’s not to say it wasn’t a perfect performance as some of the jokes didn’t hit the target. He definitely lightens up the tone for this movie.
- Margot Robbie once again proves why she is currently Hollywood ‘it’ girl. Jane Porter Clayton could have easily been another damsel in distress but Margot portrays Tarzan’s spouse as an independent, resourceful and tough woman who like her husband is also kind to the natives and shows compassion for the wild life even though she can’t communicate with them in the manner Tarzan does. She was joy to watch but a part me wishes the directors were bold enough to completely empower the character rather than chaining her up for a good chunk of it.
- It must be noted the world in which the Legend of Tarzan is set in gorgeous, from the period detail of the London scenes to the breathtaking African scenery that forms the backdrop for majority of the movie. It really looks nice and at certain times of the movie it made me want to visit the Congo however this scenery is marred by some sub-par visual effects which I’ll explain the cons section.
- The inherent problem I have with this movie is its tone. You’d think that a movie that features a yodelling man from the jungle who communicates with animals in the same way Aqua-man talks to fish would be a fun and light hearted movie, but it takes itself a way too seriously. This is disappointing considering the past work of David Yates includes the later Harry Potter films and is also directing the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
- As a huge fan of Christoph Walt, this movie confirms that he is slowly being typecast as a generic villain following his recent performances in 007: Spectre, Horrible Bosses 2 & The Green Hornet. I won’t lie, I am slightly disappointed with his performance as Captain Leon Rom, a corrupt Belgian captain sent by king Leopold of Belgium to find diamonds and control the region. He’s perfectly functional for the film and has a unique weapon in the form of his rosary chain but he never reaches the height that I expect from a man that won an Oscar for his villainous turn in Inglorious Bastards.
- If you were expecting a film to be littered with action set pieces prepare to be swindled as the movie has some pacing issue. This is because it takes a bit of time for our protagonists to get to the Congo and the movie also feels the need to add a love story. On top of that, the film takes expositional dumps in the form an origin story for Tarzan and Jane through flashbacks littered through various points that slow the movie down to a crawl. Whilst I feel these scenes are important for those who are not familiar with the characters, a part of me also feels that those flashbacks would have worked better as an individual movie because it has been a while since the populous has seen Tarzan on the silver screen.
- It’s a bit unfair to make this comparison but the CGI effects in this picture is underwhelming compared to Disney recent adaptation of The Jungle Book or the recent Planet of the Apes movies . I’m not saying that the effects are bad they are passable but at times they look cartoony which goes against the serious tone the movie tries to build for itself.
- The final action set piece is extremely goofy thanks to some poor visuals that almost negate the decent work the movie had done up to that point. The scene feels rushed and I feel it was poorly executed.