The Legend of Tarzan, 2016.
Directed by David Yates.
Starring Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou and Jim Broadbent.
Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.
Bringing Tarzan to the big screen once again was always going to be a challenge. Aside from the political correctness, it’s tough to take him seriously and with this new incarnation it raises the question is Tarzan is still relevant?
Instead of the traditional “I Tarzan, you Jane” origin story, we start with Tarzan already back in Victorian London as an established noble man called John Clayton who’s married to Jane and enjoying the “civilised” world. Considering the overwhelming amount of origin stories that have come out over the last decade it’s refreshing to see a major blockbuster take a different direction. However, this does result in a number of flashbacks throughout the film which don’t quite work. After hearing rumours that King Leopold is enslaving the natives of the Congo, Clayton heads back to the jungle taking with him Jane (Robbie) and George Washington Williams (Jackson). Upon arriving in the jungle it’s not long before John Clayton is stripped away and he once again becomes Tarzan.
The Legend of Tarzan is a silly and cheesy yet entertaining romp. It won’t be remembered for quality acting or an imaginative story but it is an enjoyable way to spend 2 hours in the cinema. The chemistry between the trio of Skarsgard, Robbie and Jackson is fun to watch and they carry this film well – specifically Jackson who seems to being enjoying the material. Robbie as the anti-damsel Jane also fairs well in a part that is traditionally seen as that of a weak woman. Christoph Waltz’s villain Leon Rom is simply ok. It appears Waltz is playing a character we’ve seen many times before, and whilst there he has some great malice moments, he is one dimensional and never feels like a real threat.
Skarsgard as Tarzan/Clayton is an uneven performance. A usually reliable actor on the indie scene, in a blockbuster he seems slightly lost and his John Clayton comes across as rather dull and stilted. When he transforms into Tarzan, there is more emotion behind the eyes and perhaps with a higher rating, we could have seen the animal element come to the forefront. The physical element of his performance is spot on and much has been said about his exercise regime et al. It feels almost as if the emphasis went on this rather than working on the character.
Coming out in the same year as The Jungle Book was going to be tricky considering the phenomenal use of CGI in that film. The Legend of Tarzan has some strong elements, mainly the animals and a stampede sequence that works well. Unfortunately Tarzan swinging through the trees doesn’t look great and there’s not a single moment where you don’t think that you’re watching something animated.
David Yates has proven many times that he can direct a good action sequence and there are several moments throughout where he demonstrates this. A sequence on a train is well choreographed and a fight between Tarzan and Chief Mbonga (Hounsou) is exhilarating to watch. There are moments of brilliance in The Legend of Tarzan that are unfortunately juxtaposed against poor CGI, uneven performances and a plot that never really takes any risks. With a surprising box office take, it seems that Tarzan may still be relevant in the modern mind, so let’s hope if there is a next outing that it’s more adventurous.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter
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