The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review
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Edgar Rice Burroughs couldn’t have possibly known that his 1912 novel, Tarzan of the Apes, would become the launch pad for so many future works. For starters, Burroughs published more than 20 additional novels following is most famous creation. Then there were the stage plays, radio broadcasts, television shows, video games and, of course, movies. On the film front, the three most popular works were arguably Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) and Disney’s animated Tarzan (1999). The last attempt at a live action Tarzan movie was almost 20 years ago and it didn’t go over so well. Instead of sullying the memory of this great character further, future potential products were shelved…until now. The Legend of Tarzan has returned and looks to revive the almost forgotten iconic character.
John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård) lives a quiet aristocratic life with his beloved wife Jane (Margot Robbie). His days of living in the wild are long behind him. John has adjusted quite nicely to the calm and quiet found in late nineteenth century London. When John is urged to return to Africa on basically a diplomatic mission, everything changes for him. What John could not know at the time is that events were orchestrated to bring him back to the land he called home for so many years before. Accompanied by Jane and a new acquaintance, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), the trio start their journey to the African Congo. What is waiting for them on the other end of this trip leads to an intense, adventurous and deadly time where truths will be made and lines will be crossed.
The man behind the mayhem to come is the very talented Christoph Waltz who plays Leon Rom, a Belgian captain whose motivations are based on financial and political gain. The person that he partners with to reach his goals does not seek financial prosperity. He only wants one thing, Tarzan (Skarsgård). Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) has a debt to repay that has eluded him for quite some time but a perfect opportunity has presented itself in Leon Rom’s greed. The Legend of Tarzan has all of the required elements for a solid film. The question becomes, can these ingredients be mixed together to make an appetizing offering?
Alexander Skarsgård as John Clayton/Tarzan is much more workable than I first thought. He does a good job at capturing the essence of what the character was, muscles and all. Margot Robbie is average as Jane, aka the damsel in distress. She is too strong of an actor to be confined in such a role. She is definitely underutilized. Christoph Waltz is spot on as he often is as The Legend of Tarzan main villain. By far though in my opinion, Samuel L. Jackson turned in the most enjoyable performance. It was a case of “letting Sam be Sam” in my eyes. He provides comic relief when needed and cold calculated resolve when necessary.
The Legend of Tarzan has been a long time coming, 13 years to be exact. Warner Bros. and producer Jerry Weintraub have been working on this project for that long with hurdle after hurdle to overcome. With all of that deliberation as well as the anticipation that has been built up, expectations are undoubtedly high, as is the budget (an estimated $180,000,000). The pressure to deliver is huge and, after watching this movie with my own two eyes, there could be some financial issues here. Domestically speaking, the Tarzan subject isn’t a huge draw, therefore I’m anticipating a less than stellar box office run. That being said, as with many other movies, the international market should help alleviate some of these shortcomings. It won’t be Asia coming to its rescue, but more likely the UK will play a bigger role here. There’s not enough flash to sustain American interest (we like what we like), so expect a big drop off after week one.
The faults of The Legend of Tarzan outweigh the strengths. The CGI was heavy handed in spots creating a distracting experience that you couldn’t look away from. The bigger issue is how long the movie felt. Surprisingly the runtime is only a total of 109 minutes and I would have sworn it was easily 2+ hours at the very least. After all, director David Yates (directed the last four Harry Potter movies) is known for longer runtimes choke full of details. Is it interesting? Yes. Is it entertaining? Absolutely…at times. Is it something that can be easily recommended? Well not so much. There’s an element of blandness that continues to make its presence felt throughout. I’m on the fence about recommending The Legend of Tarzan as full price worthy so this is a case of buyer beware.