The Legend of Tarzan - Review

It has been quite a long time since we last heard of the vince swinging jungle icon Tarzan.
But now this is about to change with a completely new take on Tarzan's story in The Legend of Tarzan, which starts its story not from the beginning but after Tarzan already met Jane.
With Tarzan now having to go back to the jungle and his roots to prevent an evil European Captain from exploiting the African people, The Legend of Tarzan should raise quite some hopes for Tarzan to make a great comeback.
But is it a comeback worth watching, or should've Tarzan better stayed in the jungle for good?...

The plot:
John Clayton following his parents' death in Africa would be raised by an ape and would be known by the name Tarzan, would leave Africa and go to his parents's home in England along with woman he fell in love with and married, Jane Porter. He would be asked by Belgian King Leopold to go to Africa to see what he has done there to help the country. Initially he refuses. But an American, George Washington Williams wants him to accept so he can accompany him. He says that Leopold might be committing all sorts of atrocities to achieve his goal like slavery. He needs to prove it. Clayton agrees and his wife insists that she accompany him because she misses Africa. They go and when they arrive a man named Rom who works for Leopold attacks the village they are at and captures Tarzan and Jane. With Washington's help he escapes and sets out to rescue Jane by going across the jungle and Washington joins him despite being told that he might not make it.
Source: IMDb

It has been a long time since the last big Tarzan movie has been released (which in that case was by Disney), so in order to make things more interesting this time around, Warner Bros. decided to present Tarzan's new big screen comeback in the form of a new perspective.
Thus, The Legend of Tarzan's premise doesn't give us yet another retelling of the same old story of Tarzan meeting Jane but rather a story which starts off quite some time later after Tarzan has already met Jane and started a new life in Great Britain as a civilized man named John Clayton in the midst of the British society. It is only through a call for help from his home in Africa that Tarzan comes back to the rescue as THE legendary Tarzan once again.
And to give the movie already some credit, this premise actually is something quite new and rightfully places this reboot of the franchise (or at least new Tarzan movie) in an interesting new light.

Tarzan is back, but was it worth it?

With Tarzan having to go back to his roots in order to overcome an evil Belgian captain who is out to exploit the poor citizens of the Congo, The Legend of Tarzan's premise starts out actually quite interesting with the "legend" aspect of Tarzan's character being effectively used.
Thus, it is just a shame that the movie sort of crumbles under its own weight by ultimately turning out to be quite an underplotted simple rescue movie with a very inconsistent tone.
Even though The Legend of Tarzan utilizes the themes of exploitation of the African people as a big focus point and motivation for Tarzan to return to the Congo, the movie's very serious presentation is not always as present or consistent as one would've expected. Although the color pallet of the movie as well as its dialogue mostly conveys a dark and serious tone, there are multiple scenes in the movie (most notably many swashbuckling action scenes) which flatout appear as goofy. From a serious dialogue between Christoph Waltz and Margot Robbie about the worth of the African people to Samuel Jackson as Tarzan's sidekick screaming like a girl while swinging on a vine, the sudden changes in tone occasionally really make some scene transitions in The Legend of Tarzan feel like they are from two different movies.

It's back to the jungle for you.

Other than that though, The Legend of Tarzan is pretty much as straightforward and predictable as simple adventure/rescue mission action movie plots go: Tarzan returns to Africa to help the Congo people, suddenly Jane gets kidnapped by the bad guys, Tarzan follows, Tarzan catches up, Tarzan fights bad guys, Tarzan wins, the end. With that said, The Legend of Tarzan indeed pushes the right narrative buttons with flashbacks and enough dialogue to deliver some insightful character moments and servicable action scenes but never overcomes the expected or predictable in any way.
Especially with the premise of Tarzan having to once again adapt to the jungle after having been civilized in Britain for such a long time already, the many possibilities for such a theme don't really manage to truely shine in the movie other than during a few chuckle worthy moments.

"I can't wait to get rescued by you guys."

Looking at the characters, Alexander Skarsgard does actually really well as the new Tarzan.
On top of boasting a fitting look and physique, one really buys that he once was the jungle man that slowly changed to become a sophisticated British man over the years. He is a likable and charming lead who nevertheless though for many viewers probably still won't manage to light that specific spark to warrant another watch of the movie, let alone a sequel.
This does not really count for Samuel L. Jackson though. Sam Jackson as Tarzan's sidekick George Washington Williams is hands down the absolute best character of the entire movie. Even though his character obviously marks the comedic relief in the movie and occasionally tonally sticks out like a sore thumb in some scenes, one has to love how obviously Sam Jackson enjoys his role in the movie. The Legend of Tarzan is chock full of brooding, dark, overly serious characters, while Sam Jackson's George Washington manages to light up many scenes through some comedic lines and his "I'm too old for this shit"-persona. Not really something one would expect in a Tarzan movie, but considering the circumstances, he makes the entire movie leagues more enjoyable through his performance.

Sam Jackson is easily the most entertaining thing in this movie.

Margot Robbie however is a somewhat very polarizing choice for the role of Jane.
While Robbie is undoubtedly a beautiful actress, in some scenes she feels quite a bit miscast - as if only her red dyed hair is supposed to make her convince the audience that she is Jane.
The problem with her character are mainly that her persona doesn't really deliver the sencere yet strong personality that Jane is supposed to embody. Mostly due to her character being weakly written in the script, The Legend of Tarzan simply declares Jane to be nothing more than a damsel in distress throughout the entire movie. Without a single strong scene that establishes Jane's strong personality to the audience, Margot Robbie's Jane sadly comes down to barely anything more than a nice face to look at in the movie.

Last but not least, Christoph Waltz has been once again blatantly typecast as the evil European Captain Léon Rom. Complete with Waltz's reappearing somewhat German-ish accent, gentleman-like behaviour and sudden outbursts of anger, this is pretty much the exact same acting routine that Waltz can play in his sleep now - pretty much the same character you already saw in Inglorious Basterds, The Green Hornet, Horrible Bosses 2 or Spectre.

One evil European villain please!

Taking a look at the action and effects served to the audience in The Legend of Tarzan, the movie is very underwhelming.
While The Legend of Tarzan obviously follows the footsteps of a swashbuckling adventure flick, there aren't too many actual highlights in the movie. Most notably, even though Tarzan is of course playing the main protagonist throughout the movie, it's especially Sam Jackson who makes every dynamic action scene come to life and (most importantly) entertaining, whereas his and Tarzan's encounter with a pack of Gorillas in the jungle might probably be the main highlight in the movie.
With that being said though, most of the effects in The Legend of Tarzan are absolutely sub-par. With the CGI-work being painstakingly obvious, in particular the CGI-apes look incredibly fake and oftentimes move a bit weird. Though not the worst effects Hollywood has to offer, The Legend of Tarzan's gorrillas (or CGI-animal effects as a whole) absolutely pale in comparison to the one's already seen in the Planet of the Apes reboot or this year's The Jungle Book.

Artificial CGI-gorillas in the mist.

Overall, The Legend of Tarzan boasts a nicely refreshing new premise to the well known story about Tarzan. With Tarzan now having to return to his wild roots after so many years, one would've wished though that the movie would stick to this main actually interesting theme more closely and make the most out of it.
What we instead get though, is a very straightforward rescue adventure movie with unconvincing effects and a very inconsistent tone that obviously has trouble to blend its serious scenes together with its more lightheartedly comedic ones.
Sure enough, the entire experience is absolutely servicable with some admittedly fairly entertaining action scenes spread throughout and a Samuel Jackson who absolutely enjoys himself here, yet considering how cookie-cutterish everything else, from the damsel in distress to the typecast evil European Christoph Waltz villain feels in The Legend of Tarzan, one cannot help to wish that the movie would've used its potential a lot more.

The Legend of Tarzan is a mixed bag of a movie or barely a "okay"-movie at best that despite good intentions and a promising start quickly devolves into a been-there-done-that underplotted adventure flick that for the most part just misses its chance to make Tarzan return with a memorable comeback. Instead The Legend of Tarzan is a servicable yet undeniably dissappointing movie considering how much better it could've been if everything else in it would've been just as interesting as its premise.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 10


No comments:

Post a Comment