The Legend of Tarzan Review

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Over a century ago, Edgar Rice Burroughs created one of the best-known literary characters of all time in his book: Tarzan of the Apes. Unfortunately, modern retellings of early 20th-century literary characters haven’t quite panned out well – a more recent example being the much maligned John Carter. Yet David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) is set to give the world a Tarzan film fit for modern audiences. Is David Yates able to bring Tarzan to a new era or does the film fail to properly adapt to the modern era?

Unfortunately, The Legend of Tarzan is unable to adapt for modern audiences. It’s essentially a soulless film that only half-heartedly updates the film. Sure, the film is pretty to look at, but it still is unable to deliver the goods on a multitude of levels.

The Legend of Tarzan follows John Clayton/Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), a former jungle inhabitant who has fully acclimated himself to English society. When George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) recruits John to come back to his former home, they’re thrust into a conflict that only Tarzan can resolve.

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Tarzan’s origin story has been established on screen plenty of times before. Credit to Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer for writing a Tarzan film where an older Tarzan has already acclimated himself to London. But, for whatever reason, the film still is chock full of needless flashbacks sprinkled throughout the film. At first, the film runs on the idea that you know Tarzan’s origin story, and yet they still show his origin story through shoddy flashbacks. It just doesn’t make much sense. On top of that, Cozad and Brewer also wrote a predictable script that lacks any drama and where the characters are underdeveloped and one-dimensional. It’s a valiant effort by the duo but it doesn’t quite work out.

David Yates also does a valiant job trying to salvage the film, but that can only go so far. The Legend of Tarzan is poorly paced and edited. Yates implemented a slow burn to the film in an attempt to establish these characters. The problem with that lies with some wooden performances from some of the cast, thus resulting in a film that drags.

I’ve got to hand it to David Yates, though. Yates, cinematographer Henry Braham, and a band of CG artists are able to create a film that’s incredibly stunning. The lush greens of the jungle and the golden Congolese plains – it’s all breathtaking to look at. But as much as the scenery is absolutely beautiful to look at, the overall CGI is a mixed bag. There are several instances where the animals are realistically rendered then there are times where they look incredibly fake. It’s clear that this isn’t up to the same quality as Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Not to mention that some of the vine swinging sequences are poorly rendered too.

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On paper, The Legend of Tarzan boasts a strong cast, but that cast doesn’t really live up to expectations. Alexander Skarsgård has the right look for Tarzan, but his performance is far from it. He depicts Tarzan with a monotone and soft spoken voice that it’s hard to believe that this man ever was considered the “King of the Jungle.” In addition, he doesn’t convey much emotion in the film too. Understandably, Tarzan never showed much emotion in his cinematic iterations, but Skarsgård showed less than that.

Christoph Waltz is just as underwhelming as the villain too. Waltz is typically charming and charismatic, but he’s devoid of it here. Much like Skarsgård, Waltz provides a wooden performance. Truth be told, it’s very difficult to create a film that’s any good when your hero and villain are so flat.

The only two standout performances come from Margot Robbie and Samuel L. Jackson. Margot Robbie gives a high-spirited and fiery performance that adds a bit of personality to the film. Unfortunately, Robbie is grossly underused here and isn’t in much of the film. Samuel L. Jackson is the best thing about Legend of Tarzan. If it weren’t for Jackson providing much of the film’s charisma, the film wouldn’t be as tolerable as it was.

Overall, it was a courageous attempt to bring back the pulpy period adventure films of the past. Alas, The Legend of Tarzan was crippled by a variety of issues that included cast performances, pacing, story, and much more. Like John Carter, it’s time to take this old tale and put it back in the vault.

Rating: 2.5/5 atoms
NR 2_5 Atoms - C-

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1507 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.