The Legend of Tarzan review
There is something tranquil about being in the woods. I’m fortunate enough to live in an area that has lots of trees and where the sounds of the summer evening consists of cricket chirping, owls in a chorus-like hooting, and the occasional coyote howl. As a kid, though it was troublesome to taking ten minutes to get into town, living out in the countryside and woodsy area made my childhood wonderful. It was an all win situation for the family as my parents got the peace and quiet that helped them escape the stress of work while for my brother and I, we felt like little Tarzans.
Okay, we didn’t live in tree houses, walk around naked or swung vine to vine (grapevines don’t hold people well), but the wild has plenty to call for those that are interested. Today’s movie reminded me of that, as Tarzan represents the more animal-side of being human. I’ve never read the Edger Rice Burroughs stories nor seen any of the older live action movies, so my only experience with the character is from the 1999 Disney animated Tarzan. With updated technology and a darker tone, The Legend of Tarzan.
Though we are given the origin story of Tarzan’s parents dying in the jungle and being taken in by a family of gorillas, we actually cut ahead to England where Tarzan (played by Alexander Skarsgård) has returned to claim his families estate, even calling himself “Lord Greystoke”. He’s invited by the Belgian government to visit the Congo (where his old jungle was) and to examine all the progress made there, including new towns and a steam engine train. At first he declines, but is persuaded to by an American envoy, George Washington Williams (played by Samuel L. Jackson). He initially plans to go alone, but his wife Jane (played by Margot Robbie) but is also convinced in letting her join.
When they arrive, they find the tribe where Jane and her father taught for years and enjoy a little reunion. The happiness is cut short when some mercenaries, led by the Belgium Léon Rom (played by Christoph Waltz) kills the tribal chief, burns several homes, and takes Jane. Tarzan and George head into the jungle to intercept the mercenaries and see where they’ve been taken captured tribesmen. What Tarzan doesn’t know is that León wanted him to follow, leading the lord of the apes into a trap.
The jungle is wild and The Legend of Tarzan seems to have the right elements for an entertaining blockbuster. The Africa here is more modernized and yet threatening like it should be. The best element of this movie is the atmosphere, as we get a variety of the country aside from trees. This is a good example on how CGI can replace the necessity of using real exotic animals. The animation on the Gorillas and other African animals looks really good. The scene alone where Tarzan is meeting with a pack of lions should be in the demo pitch for the visual effect artists looking for more work.
The acting highlight is Samuel L. Jackson who is playing the only real life figure. I’d say that most of the performance is Sam’s personality, but it’s a welcome to the films biggest problem; it’s main character. Alexander Skarsgård is beyond bland as the lord of the apes. Except for a well-built body and his communicating with the animals, he has to be the most boring rendition of Tarzan I’ve seen. It’s a shame because everyone else is well casted including Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz whose always fun to watch as the villain. Even the action is entertaining, but our hero is so uninteresting, that a real gorilla would have been more fun to follow.
I’ll give this three gorillas out of five. If the rest of the movie is so well put together, why couldn’t they found a better Tarzan? Even if this movie had included Phil Collins songs, it wouldn’t have helped. The Legend of Tarzan would be pretty good had they taken out Tarzan.