STARRING: Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, Rory J. Saper, Christian Stevens, Ella Purnell, Jim Broadbent, Casper Crump, Hadley Fraser, Genevieve O’Reilly, Yule Masiteng and Simon Russell Beale
Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.
Eight years have passed since the man once known as Tarzan left Africa and settled down with his wife Jane Porter and has taken up north his birth name and ancestral family residence as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. We catch John in London being told by the British Prime Minister that he has been invited by King Leopold to visit Boma and report on the development of the Congo by Belgium. An American named George Washington Williams tells him that he suspects that the Belgians are enslaving the Congolese population, persuading John to return home and help Williams to prove his suspicions.
The Legend of Tarzan is the latest version based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs back in the early 1910’s, with the last live action film of Tarzan being back in the late 90’s with Casper Van Dien playing Tarzan. While not many people will remember that, I’m sure many will remember instead the late 90’s Disney animated feature. I had no expectations going into this film as the trailers never really had me interested to check out the film but I was actually interested by David Yates take on Tarzan.
I like that we didn’t get another origin story and instead were given a sequel/remake style feature, with Tarzan’s origins being explained in flashback sequences while we get to see John Clayton III returning to his roots, as it were, and in turn returning to the Congo his animalistic nature of old begins to resurface as they investigate Williams suspicions. The relationship between Tarzan and Jane is treated in a way that it feels the audience has witnessed it before and yet still carries weight throughout the film and the chemistry for me between Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie worked. Skarsgård for me was fine as Tarzan, particularly in how he handles his character interacting with the animals on screen, Margot Robbie definitely for me outshined him as Jane. Samuel L. Jackson brings a light nature to the role in a rather dark film as George Washington Williams. There’s a secondary villain, as it were, that has a personal issue with Tarzan and when we figure out what the reason behind it is, I actually felt that if the film focused more on that angle rather than the main villain, I may have enjoyed The Legend of Tarzan more.
The main issues with the film come down to the use of the main villain and also the CGI. Christoph Waltz is in Waltz-mode to the point that it almost feels like he’s in default mode at the moment. His is a calm yet menacing presence, yet he’s completely one note throughout to the point now that I really want to see Waltz try something different outside of his comfort zone that doesn’t involve Tarantino. His arc as the antagonist wasn’t as interesting for me as the secondary villain of the leader of the African Tribe was (which also was resolved too quickly and personal grudge explained way too late). The CGI when it comes to the lions and close up shots of the apes are done well, but the wide shots of CGI apes and especially the wildebeest stampede just look rubbish in comparison to the special effects of animals from the Rise/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes films to this years The Jungle Book. While Alexander Skarsgård done well for me personally in interacting with the animals, the accent goes all over the place for me at certain moments.
I appreciate that Yates and company went with a different spin on the tale of Tarzan, it almost feels like a feature film of old as it slow burns to an action-filled finale, building on character development and interaction amongst the main characters. I enjoyed Skarsgård’s Tarzan performance moreso than his John Clayton III performance, Margot Robbie was really good as Jane, Jackson looks like he had a good time in the role and while Waltz may be effective as the villain for some, it’s pretty much the same we’ve come to expect from his last few films as he’s typecast into this role. Unfortunately certain story decisions and rough CGI patches brought the film down for me. 6/10