Today: February 29, 2024

The Legend Of Tarzan

You’d think that having played a key part in the later stages of the Harry Potter films director David Yates would have had enough of orphans who have the fate of a ‘nation’ resting on their shoulders. But clearly the lure of one of literature’s, and cinema’s, most iconic heroes was too much for Yates. The Legend Of Tarzan, close to the fiftieth film based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ tree swinging hero, is here in the hope of re-launching a much loved franchise.

The film forgoes much of the origin story of Lord Greystoke, aka Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard), only briefly showing in flashback how he was raised by apes and fell for Jane (Margot Robbie). We find the man, the legend, living in London sipping tea – pinky raised and everything – and being called into a diplomatic meeting. There George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) asks him to travel to the Congo where the King of Belgium is exploiting the natural resources and enslaving those who live there. When Jane is kidnapped by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) Tarzan will stop at nothing to rescue the woman he loves and rid the country of tyranny.

Earlier this year Jon Favreau brought Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book to stunning life. Despite all of the creatures being CGI-ed and the jungle being conjured in computers rather than shot on location the film transported you to the world of Mowgli with grace and charm. Given the similarities to Tarzan it is therefore frustrating that this Tarzan feels so artificial.

At no point are in the Congolese jungle but rather a foliage with muted colours as seen through the hazy eyes of special effects gurus deprived of sunlight. The animals on offer, while often engaging in the plot, do not feel tangible. Instead they feel dated. Visual effects have come such a long way when films like The Jungle Book and the recent Planet of The Apes movies can have us believing so completely in these CGI creations as characters it leaves Tarzan feeling manufactured, rather than organic.

Where the film does work is in honing in on the romance between Tarzan and Jane. Skarsgard and Robbie sell it well while Skarsgard, being shot like something out of a shampoo commercial, brings a swoon inducingly brooding performance.

But therein lies another issue of The Legend Of Tarzan, it’s lacking in fun. This Tarzan, while undoubtedly easy to root for, never has you punching the air with joy or laughing with delight at what is unfolding before you. Instead, at times and in no small part thanks to the casting of Waltz and Jackson, it feels like it is building to a Tarantino like level of bloody revenge. This being a big budget blockbuster said blood is never shed but you’re left between a drab jungle and an angry place that it is neither hugely fun nor darkly satisfying in the vengeance stakes.

Not a complete banana skin of a film but by no means king of the swingers, The Legend Of Tarzan is as muddied as the Amazon, but without the threat or majesty.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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