Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 110 minutes
Director: David Yates
Writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs (based on the 'Tarzan' stories created by), Craig Brewer and Adam Cozad (screenplay)
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Djimon Hounsou

The Legend of Tarzan is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Roadshow Films.

Bringing 'Tarzan' back to the realm of live action in 2016 is not even half a bad idea. It is actually a concept that is easy to get excited about when you consider how much could be done with it. However, it takes only five minutes to realise that that is all The Legend of Tarzan is and is instead exceptionally dull, flawed and overly cliché.

In what is an attempt to be unique and original with a story that has been told many times, The Legend of Tarzan is essentially a sequel to the more traditional Tarzan tale and takes place in the years following the "Tarzan meets Jane" fiasco. Tarzan (as played by Alexander Skarsgard), now known as John Clayton, has brushed up to become quite the civilised English gentleman with his American bride, Jane (Margot Robbie) at his side. He is coaxed back to Africa under the instruction of Belgian King Leopold to see what he has done for the countey and is accompanied by both Jane and American, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson). When they arrive, they find a new enemy in Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) who is ruthlessly ripping through tribal villages with no guilt and has his eye set firmly on Tarzan.

While it is admirable that screenwriters Craig Brewer and Adam Cozad have tried to do an original take on Tarzan, there is nothing unique in the fact that it is merely a sequel being released at a time when cinemas are literally flooded with origin stories and sequels. It has been a significant amount of time since the last live-action Tarzan film so it can be presumed that the idea for the film came from that lightbulb moment of "Imagine what we could do with that story now!"

Visually, yes. There was a lot that could be done with The Legend of Tarzan and it does not disappoint in this department. The production design is very impressive and the CGI of the African animals and scenery is superb. This is where the excitement and intrigue exists with the film as the story is hardly suspenseful nor action-packed and very predictable. Of course the argument is that Tarzan films and television shows are supposed to have an acceptable level of tackiness and are not supposed to be taken too seriously, but with anything that isn't supposed to be taken too seriously you expect a level of enjoyment and a bit of fun. The Legend of Tarzan doesn't have any of this. It is a Tarzan film that is perfect in so far as capturing the atmosphere of the Congo, but doesn't succeed in capturing the sense of adventure in the way a Tarzan adaptation should.

The Legend of Tarzan is not just a new story about Tarzan, but the revealing of Tarzan as a new man. Alexander Skarsgard's Tarzan is a lot more civilised than the jungle man of old and the animalistic side of his personality is barely existant. He is a man caught between two worlds, but in the situation he finds himself in in this film, you would expect fragments of the man he used to be to come through in his behavior. Physically is a different matter. This isn't just in relation to his physique and his unnatural male model poses that were undoubtedly the basis for him being cast in the role, but he progresses in stature from a very well-to-do man to the King of the Jungle just fine,

It is Margot Robbie's Jane who has a bigger personality than Tarzan himself and has the fire that you would hope her husband would have. As well as Robbie does do performance wise, Jane is a little too contemporary for the film's time period. She is being presented as a cross between a strong woman and a damsel in distress, but with a less than refined accent and vocabulary that was not typical of the time. The fact that in her final close up you can see that Jane has pierced ears, when ear piercing did not come into fashion until the 1920's does not help this case either.

Samuel L. Jackson adds some humour to the film in a role that is again very contemporary, but probably more accepted than Jane. His addition to the cast makes things a bit more entertaining and animated, even if his character is quite Tarantino-esque minus the swearing. Christoph Waltz is fine as the villain Leon Rom, but sadly isn't too much of a stretch from the characters he has been playing of late.

The Legend of Tarzan proves to be nothing more than an exciting idea that cannot carry the excitement through to it's execution.


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