The Legend of Tarzan Review
"The Legend of the Rise of the Dawn of the King of the Jungle"
The Legend of Tarzan
, directed by David Yates is overly formulaic and has a lot of flaws, but it's still a passable action-adventure propped up by a good cast and likable characters.
John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård), after being raised by an ape in Africa and becoming known under the name Tarzan, has returned to London to honor the Clayton family legacy along with his beloved wife Jane Porter (Margot Robbie). When rumors of atrocities being committed in the Congo in the name of the Belgian King Leopold, Clayton is compelled to return to the jungle in its time of need. What he does not know is that he and and Jane are walking into a trap set by Leopold's top man, the villainous Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz).
At first, it seems as if The Legend of Tarzan
is going to ignore the origin story that just about everyone already knows - baby raised by apes, meets Jane as a grown man and falls in love with her - instead showing us what happens after, with the King of the Jungle abandoning his roots to become a British Lord. Unfortunately, the origin story does play a part as a series of flashbacks scattered throughout the movie, giving us the cliff-notes version. Some flashback sequences would have been for the sake of framing the story, especially since there are a few important details that are quite relevant to the present, but The Legend of Tarzan
lingers too long on those moments without really adding anything new to the table.
Familiarity in general is quite a problem for The Legend of Tarzan
, with stock characters, plot points and even scenes making up the most of its narrative. There is the part where John tries to convince Jane not go, they fight for a bit and after he thinks about it, he concedes. There is also the moment where the main villain has a coldly sophisticated meal with the main love interest, whom he's captured. Sure, the movie occasionally lampshades some of this stuff, but just because Jane stoically refuses to be a stereotypical damsel in distress does not really mean she's not one.
The movie is certainly a sincere effort and the cast helps tremendously with making it come to life somewhat, but it's still far too familiar far too often. Christoph Waltz perhaps exemplifies it best - sure, it's fun to see him play the villain, but he's been doing it so much that its starting to get a little stale. Samuel L. Jackson adds some much needed levity as a key supporting character, but not really enough to be really memorable.
Skarsgård makes for a good Tarzan, both in his physique and the way he carries himself - a scene where he reunites with a pride of lions he knew from before he left the jungle really makes you believe who he's supposed to be.
The editing is clunky and sometimes hard to follow, particularly during fight scenes and the special effects are annoyingly inconsistent. They range from amazing CGI animals that are on par with the best we have seen from live-action features such as The Jungle Book
and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
to unbelievably fake looking sequences like the bit where Tarzan and friends swing onto a train. There are also a lot of obnoxious extreme close-ups that are more likely to make you feel uncomfortable rather than add tension.
The costume design is excellent and striking, with bold colors that give a distinct feel to different characters. The cinematography occasionally shows signs of such flare, but for the most part, it's too murky to make too much of an impact.
The Legend of Tarzan
can be enjoyable and it's clear that it is trying. It clearly respects its story and characters, which is never bad. I doubt it will have any staying power, but for what it's worth, it's watchable. Its biggest failure is that it just does not stand out in any substantial way.