Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Legend of Tarzan: Film Review

The Legend of Tarzan: Film Review

Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L Jackson, Christoph Waltz
Director: David Yates

Mixing colonialism, historical figures and fictional figures, The Legend of Tarzan is a potent mix of jungle based drama, complete with some very prominent displays of abs.

Harry Potter director David Yates brings his eye for teen obsessions and otherworldly elements to the story of John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, this time played by True Blood’s rather buffed up Alexander Skarsgard.

Working as a trade emissary for Parliament, Greystoke’s lured back to the jungles of Africa under a  pretext orchestrated by Leon Rom (the usual malevolent smirking Christoph Waltz). Taking along his wife Jane (a sparky Margot Robbie, the best thing about the film) and Samuel L Jackson’s quipping George Washington Williams, Greystoke soon finds himself caught in the middle of a conspiracy.

The Legend Of Tarzan may come out swinging at times as it revamps the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, but its attempts to mesh elements of Twilight (a romance between two leads, complete with swoon worthy kissing in trees moments), the CGI gorilla shenanigans of Planet of the Apes, some broad laughs and a revenge tale don’t quite hang together as well as they could.

Yates has made a great fist of a few of the CGI animals in the jungle, and there’s a tenderness and brutality between Tarzan’s interactions with the various critters that’s endemic to the law of the jungle.

(Though this is perhaps one of the most bloodless films I’ve seen in its representation of colonialism, with fights and fatalities feeling less than real, contributing to an overall feeling of not fully committing).

Sadly, the would be stronger elements of the film don’t stand on their own two legs as much as they should.

Djimon Hounsou’s African tribe leader’s desire for revenge crumbles as quickly as the now infamous clash between Superman and Batman did earlier in the year and is a narrative flop; by the same token, Waltz’s quietly wannabe menacing Rom, complete with his white suit, lacks any real sinister edge.

As for Skarsgard’s brooding lord of the jungle, there’s no doubting his commitment to his physique, but there is a nagging feeling simply standing looking moody or running while being sullen aren’t enough to bring any real life to the so-called Ghost of the trees, with more spirit on show with Johnny Weissmuller’s interpretation of the loin cloth god.

He has solid chemistry with Robbie though (even if frustratingly, Robbie’s Jane is presented as strong before turning into damsel in distress midway through, which is deeply annoying) which makes their bond and personal tragedy feel more real in among the more CGI elements.

But the Legend of Tarzan is hampered by repeated flashbacks to Jane and Tarzan’s meeting and endless unnecessary fleshing out of back-story that is relatively unwarranted, as well as an overall story that has no legs. Its melancholy elements are well rendered but its continual reliance on rote exposition hampers things from progressing with a pace during the 1hr 50 min run time.

A mismatched tonal mix of tongue in cheek moments, serious and relatively dour flashbacks, hints of genocide and slavery and unfleshed out narrative proves fatal to The Legend of Tarzan. 

It’s not an abs-olutely bad interpretation of the Lord Greystoke story, but it certainly not one to go ape about or prove to be the legendary romp it should be. 

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