TL;DR – There are some aspects of this film that just work, but there are others that just don’t, if you do go to see it you will probably enjoy it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Hollywood remaking movies from the past are all the rage at the moment, with Disney doing live versions of their classic cartoons, we’ll have a Magnificent 7 film later this year, and the list goes on and on. This week we have the remake of the Classic Tarzan film/book series with The Legend of Tarzan. As far as reboots go, it’s ok, but there are a lot of issues with it, well one big one really, and all of that draws it down quite a bit.
Firstly, the one thing that does work well is the cast, mostly, we’ll get to that in a moment. Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson & Christoph Waltz all play off each other and the other cast wonderfully. Lady Jane (Margot Robbie) really brings some much-needed heart to this film, but also she has a savage tongue, that throws shade like it is going out of business, for such a young actor to hold their own against Christoph Waltz is a real achievement. Speaking of Mr Waltz, I know he can do good characters just as well, but come one he might have replaced Gary Oldman as the go to power bad guy in films. Also, you have Samuel J., and that man can make even terrible film roles look good, and here he has already got a good role to work with.
From a story perspective, Tarzan takes an interesting choice of starting the film post-Tarzan after his adventures have ended and Tarzan is back in England becoming John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. Thus the story is all about him and Jane being brought back to the African continent, which is then spliced in with an origin story told through flashbacks. It mostly works, but I wonder if inter-splicing the flashbacks throughout the film was the best for pacing, and if maybe chucking them all together at the start would have been better. However, the film has some good emotional beats, a couple of humorous moments, and some decent action. The CGI is mostly ok, there are a couple of points where the animals are clearly generated, but you kind of go with it, but there are some moments when Tarzan is swinging through the jungle where it looks quite off. The set design and consuming all works well for the period piece, and they make good use of some African establishing shots, though interestingly the film was not filmed in Africa. Also, I think they would have wished this came out before Captain America: Civil War with regards to Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou).
The Legend of Tarzan is an interesting film and a lot of it works, as I have mentioned, but the one thing that didn’t work, and it really draws the film down is in the casting of the lead Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård). Firstly, I do have to say that Alexander does have the physicality to play Tarzan, that man is ripped, but he doesn’t have the emotional range to play the role. Alexander plays the role of Tarzan as cold and distant, and he is like that pretty much the whole way throughout the film. This is placed in stark contrast to the rest of the cast, which all have a range of emotions and performances. Now when saying this I don’t know if this issue is Alexander’s performance, or how he was directed to act, but either way, it just does not work, and when the film’s lead does not work you have problems.
Tarzan is one of the growing number of films that have become more and more problematic as time goes on like The Phantom, Jungle Book etc. that are part of a period of literature that had the habit of romanticising the colonial occupation of the world. So if you want to take on a project like this you need to be much more careful with your depictions than you would have had to do not that long ago, and Tarzan does this mostly quite well. First, they have introduced some real life characters to the story like George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) who outside of Tarzan has an amazing story that you should read up on, and Captain Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) whose brutalities against the Congolese people horrified the world even back then. Both of these real figures, even though they are quite dramatised, really help give the story some weight, however, the ending [SPOILERS] implies that the Belgians left the Congo in peace, when in fact, that would not happen until the 1960s [SPOILERS]. Also, the movies depictions of African Culture are quite respectful on the whole, and they do depict the brutality of the European occupation clearly, so overall some good points and bad.
So do I recommend The Legend of Tarzan, um yes/no? It is not a film I would say that you should go out of your way to see like Hunt for the Wilderpeople, however, if you are going to see a film and someone suggests Tarzan, you can do a lot worse at the moment and you’ll probably enjoy it.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you watched Tarzan?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Directed by – David Yates
Written by – Adam Cozad & Craig Brewer
Based on – Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring – Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou & Jim Broadbent
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12a; USA: PG-13