Legend of Tarzan
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou
The brilliance of director David Yates final four Harry Potter films are all lost inside his latest epic Legend of Tarzan. Of course it doesn’t help that audiences/critics might feel over saturated with this tale. We just saw the Disney family version of basically the same story – boy raised in the jungle, becomes friends with some animals/enemies with others, humans don’t understand and threaten the balance. Legend of Tarzan consolidates its story to fit inside a PG-13, family friendly narrative, I supposed to lure audiences who didn’t get enough with The Jungle Book. This story would have been better off aiming for adults in a more R rated style. Yates’ film which had a difficult production seems very unsure of itself from script to screen. It’s neither original in content or presentation, nor does its special effects, even in 3D IMAX, offer anything unique to the summer box office.
John Clayton III (Skarsgård) had already returned to normal life in London when King Leopold begins enslaving African men to build his railroads and solidify his army. The powers at be in London, along with a curious American, George Washington Williams (Jackson), want the man formerly known as Tarzan to return to the African Congo as an ambassador for England. Williams wants to see what Leopold is really up to, so Clayton and his wife Jane (Robbie) return to their former home to greet wild animal friends as well as the locals. Leon Rom (Waltz) wants diamonds, Chief Mbonga (Hounsou) has them and will trade in exchange for vengeance on the son of the jungle. Rom is the right hand of King Leopold and will advance tyranny with any means necessary.
The entire production feels second rate, not second rate to one particular film, but it’s a culmination of mediocrity from many films
“It’s impossible to take the wild out of something born to it,”. That is premise on which this story falls. It’s not so different from a superhero hanging up his cape, coaxed into fighting another day under dire circumstances. This is Tarzan, he will always save the day, the villains are always going to be defeated, and we have seen this story play out time and time again. For the audience it then becomes about the experience, the impressiveness of Skarsgård’s physique (honestly we have seen better this summer), and the ability to put the viewer in the jungle. The entire production feels second rate, not second rate to one particular film, but it’s a culmination of mediocrity from many films (i.e. Planet of the Apes, The Jungle Book, Jurassic World, etc).
Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) has been in a lot of films in the past few years, few of them notable. As she wades through various genres, accents, hairstyles and personas, she has at least demonstrated range. Her Jane, despite a few kicks and punches while tied to a steamboat headed up the Amazon for majority of the film, still isn’t given much more to do than embracing the damsel in distress. Even less could be said for the range of two time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Bastards, Django Unchained), the man who has built a career on playing the villain. He does so yet again here and it’s thoroughly boring. Skarsgård, despite being known for his willingness to bare his body, has delivered memorable roles and starred in great films like What Maisie Knew, War on Everyone, The East, and of course his fair share of clunkers. If there is a highlight performance in this story it’s Jackson’s gun toting American, ironically the only character enjoying a ride on Tarzan’s back. With an explosive $180 million dollar budget (all that fake jungle), Legend of Tarzan is the first real test for Skarsgård’s leading man status and unfortunately he does not pass the test.
An expensive waste of time.