film reel image

film reel image

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan 2016 * * Stars

The Legend of TarzanDirector: David Yates
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson

I'm not an expert on the story of Tarzan, but here's what I picked up from a midday screening of 2016's latest re-imagining: John Clayton III (that's the actual name of the main character) grew up in Gabon, a country in Equatorial Africa. After his father died, he was raised by Apes, learned to swing on vines, be one with all sorts of animals, and befriend his true love, Jane Porter. Now as he lives a quiet life in London, he is summoned back to his homeland by a former American Civil War soldier. The mission: To investigate the interests of a mining camp in the Congo. Oh and did I mention there's some evil dude out there doing a little diamond smuggling as well?

Bottom line: The Legend of Tarzan is a passable yet unmemorable viewing experience. Call it a second-tier Raiders of the Lost Ark manufactured for the Disney age. Here's what you get acting-wise: Christoph Waltz gives us his standard, antagonistic performance (with strangling wrist beads as a wubby). Lead Alexander Skarsgard looks like a young Viggo Mortensen but lacks any real charisma. Samuel L. Jackson being Samuel L. Jackson, provides satire as a goofy sidekick with a gun. Finally, romantic interest Margot Robbie continues to disappoint after being so brilliant in The Wolf of Wall Street (her Jane narrates poorly and sort of thinks she's in a comedy). Yeah it's all packaged in 2016's gaudiest summer epic.

Now from what I've gathered, "Legend" is far more symbolic and dramatically inclined than 1981's Tarzan, the Ape Man. It's also probably more modernized and digitally enhanced than Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Don't be fooled though. At just under two hours, this is a loud movie that is full of dangled, random flashbacks that almost deflate any perceptible momentum (Tarzan losing his daddy because Apes beat him to death, Tarzan learning to speak and communicate, Tarzan meeting Jane for the first time, etc.). Director David Yates who was in charge of the later Harry Potter flicks, employs a large canvas with his camera moving fast and forthright. To go along with Henry Braham's lush cinematography, he adds lots of extras in every frame, riverboat scenes that would make Francis Ford Coppola jealous, images of CGI wildlife that bring forth a Noah's Ark-like vision, and pedestrian action sequences that have some unnecessary slow motion to boot (John Clayton fights slave drivers, tribesmen, and just about everybody else here).

Overall, this is a great looking film that was obviously designed for the big screen and/or widescreen. However, it has a handsome yet muted Tarzan that is difficult to root for. Just because the musical score pounces in every time he's about to dispose of cardboard villains, doesn't mean his actions are worth memorializing. The same notions apply when he's about to kiss the girl, about to beat his chest with an infamous mating call, and about to become the hero. Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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