As if we were clamoring for another reboot, sequel, prequel, or whatever David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan would fit into, like it or not, we have one. Alexander Skarsgard is the title character only now, Tarzan is back in England. He is a Lord, now; Lord John Clayton. Happily married to Jane (Margot Robbie), he lives in an enormous estate, befitting those of Lord status. He is summoned by an English magistrate (Jim Broadbent) to travel to Africa to investigate the certain suspicious activities of a mine full of diamonds. Led by Tarzan and prompted by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) to further investigate the slavery trade, as well they set out along with Jane who insists on coming along. What could possibly go wrong?
I am a big fan of Tarzan and the films of the past. Yes, even Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan with Christopher Lambert, in probably one of the only films he showed that he could act if he had to. I was a bit skeptical on how fresh this film looked judging from the trailers and with good reason. This is not an awful film, but it is a far cry from the other Tarzan films of the past. There was something campy, but still fun with the old Johnnie Weissmuller Tarzan films. They did not take themselves this seriously. It is not to say that some people will enjoy this film, I was not one of them.
First off, Alexander Skarsgard showed more life when he played a dead vampire on True Blood. He is in perfect physical shape as you will see in this film, but he is so dull and boring as a character that I lost interest rather fast. I remember reading an article after this film came out stating that Skarsgard was on such a regimented diet that he commented he was tired all of the time. He looked it, here, almost as if he was fighting malnourishment complete with a blank stare throughout most of the film. When your lead character is the weakest link, the rest of the film suffers.
I do like this cast and even though Samuel L. Jackson seems to play the same character in each film he is in, I did not mind his constant commentary and one-liner jokes. David Yates is a fine director, having directed several of the Harry Potter films and now in line to produce and direct the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise films. He has a good eye for action and framing impressive shots. But with this film, anything that happens is pretty routine. Margot Robbie and Chrisophe Waltz do their best to keep the film afloat. But where Tarzan really falters is in its story and script, penned by Adam Cozad whose only other script credit is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Craig Brewer who worked with Jackson on Black Snake Moan. There is nothing fresh or interesting that come from this tired story of slavery, oppression, greed and materialism. These are treated as gimmicks more than story-telling elements so whenever the film tries to establish a moral point, it comes across as disingenuous and contrived.
I will give The Legend of Tarzan points for its cinematography, special effects and score by Rupert Gregson-Williams, all of which are grade A. The acting is sufficient and no one disgraces themselves, not even Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan. But no one is going to be getting a nod for an Oscar for their work, here. David Yates does a decent job of keeping the film moving along, but for me, this film ran out of steam about halfway through. The Legend of Tarzan is harmless enough entertainment but nothing that will stick in your mind for very long, at all.
The Legend of Tarzan – **1/2 out of 5
The Legend of Tarzan – Rated PG-13 for language, violence, sexual innuendo, brief nudity
The Legend of Tarzan – Run Time is 109 minutes
The Legend of Tarzan is now available on DVD, Subscription Services and On Demand.