The Legend of Tarzan (**)
Running Time: 110 minutes
Director: David Yates
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent and Christoph Waltz
(Movie House Cinemas preview screening)
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.
THE latest incarnation of Tarzan swings back on to the big screen, but sadly the result is a somewhat lacklustre affair that never really gets into gear. Directed by David Yates, who steps away from the Harry Potter franchise and heads into the Jungle, the film never really finds its feet as it treads too fine a line between trying to remain true to the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ iconic literary creation and delivering an entertaining big-budget cinematic experience.
From its lush opening visuals of the African landscape which are beautifully accompanied by a score that evokes memories of Disney’s Lion King, The Legend of Tarzan opens promisingly but soon descends into a joyous, stodgy affair that lacks any really sense of fun and simply takes itself far too seriously. Despite clocking in at less than two hours long, the film somehow manages to feel much longer; the pacing is sluggish and the narrative feels terribly disjointed- numerous flashback sequences charting Tarzan’s origins and his first meeting with Jane, quickly become repetitive and get in the way of this new story the film is trying to tell.
It’s filled with clunky CGI, which is particularly noticeable with many of Tarzan’s animal comrades, these CGI creations lack any real physicality onscreen and we’ve seen them done better in other films prior to this. There’s also an overreliance on green screen technology that manage to make the film look extremely cheap, despite its reported $180 million budget. It’s all so weightless and despite some beautiful exterior shots filmed in Gabon, there’s no real authenticity about the film’s jungle setting. The other central problem is the woodenness of the film’s leading man, Alexander Skarsgård’s performance as Tarzan would give Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel a run for his money for the least charismatic performance of the year and it’s a shame because the rest of the film’s cast give strong performances.
Both Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson do their respective thing, delivering solid performances in roles they could play by now in their sleep, but for me the real standout performer was Margot Robbie, who gives a strong performance as Tarzan’s Jane, she’s a feisty headstrong heroine, whose character deserves much more than being the film’s mere damsel in distress as the drama unfolds.
It’s not all doom and gloom, there’s some nice ideas littered throughout the feature, it’s commendable that the writers have tried to use the character of Tarzan to tackle the issue of Slavery for younger audiences; even if it’s never explored with any real depth, it at least tries to address the issue. There’s also an attempt to explore the split persona of the central character, the softly spoken British Lord John Clayton III and his more animalistic alter ego Tarzan King of the jungle. Despite supposedly being at the heart of the film’s narrative this concept is never really explored with any real conviction; no sooner has John returned to Africa but’s he’s bare-chested and getting back into the swing of things (see what I did there) with relative ease and without ever breaking a sweat. The concept is an interesting one and I’d have loved to have seen it explored further, but here it just feels like a ham-fisted attempt to turn Burroughs’ creation into a pseudo superhero for the Marvel and DC Comic generation; after all the film is based on Dark Horse Comics treatment of the character rather than the original novels.
The Legend of Tarzan left me yearning for the days of Johnny Weissmuller proudly beating his chest and delivering that iconic Tarzan Yell! Those films from the 1930s and 1940s were fun, yes they look terribly dated by today’s cinematic standards, but at least they delivered a real sense of fun and adventure for viewers, sadly I just can’t say the same about Yates’s film.
You Tarzan, me bored!