The Legend of Tarzan: Does it reach the tree tops?

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You know the wise saying “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”? Well, the Legend of Tarzan is now broken, after trying to be fixed.

Well apparently Hollywood has been poorly informed by a lack of communication and in a dangerous game of broken telephone, they merely heard “if it’s not broke, remake it!” and that brings us to The Legend of Tarzan.

When we first catch a glimpse of ‘the ape man’; a legend for his powerful bond to the harsh African jungle and all its inhabitants, he is seen sipping on a cup of tea out of spotless white china, wearing an eight-piece aristocratic attire with a chiseling Elizabethan accent. Yeah… not quite what I had in mind either. Saying that, I was quite surprised with how well Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard was able to adapt to the almost ‘Downton Abbey’ English life.

Tarzan drinking tea. Source: Disney

So we swing into the mix of things eight years after Tarzan has left the Congo jungle to resettle in Victoria England, taking the place alongside his better half Jane (Margot Robbie), while assuming his birth-name John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke. He is shortly drawn back to Africa at the plea from George Washington Williams, whom FYI is based on a real historical figure, played by Samuel L. Jackson – hold up! Sam L. Jackson in new movie? I didn’t see that one coming!

Anyways, back on track. Washington Williams who is an African-American diplomat determined to uncover crimes of slave-trade under King Leopold’s Belgium ruled Congo Free State. And naturally enough, Jane comes too, refusing to stay at home whilst Tarzan goes galavanting into the jungle. The protagonist three enter the wilderness only to step into the trap of King Leopold’s leading man Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), which if successful would ensure the death of Tarzan and the native Congo’s doom.

The CGI and effects conveyed a really boutique and mysteriously dark jungle, which I loved! Unfortunately there was an overkill of effects that were just not to a high enough standard for one of these big blockbuster films. The physical depth perception of the backgrounds in relation to the characters were very flat, conveying a poor interaction between the entire movie’s theme ‘nature and human’.

This means that Tarzan and other characters actually appeared to be standing in front of a green screen, rather than being surrounded by the supposedly multi-layered and deep Congo jungle.Funnily enough, nowadays there’s no need to even leave the comfort of a sound stage to film anywhere in the world. Directed by David Yates, known for his wizardry wonders in Harry Potter, didn’t bother leaving the UK, as the entire film was shot not in Africa, but at Warner Bros.’ studios on the outskirts of London.

Tarzan fighting ape. Source: Disney

On the up side, Yates did an amazing job to tell an original Tarzan story while keeping the old Tarzan alive.

Tarzan’s determination and drive is for Jane. Even in the previous Tarzan’s, the two have seemed indivisible, and this is not lost, revealed through his animalistic instincts to protect his soul mate, like a lion protecting his cub. Not only does Skarsgard physically fit the part, but his portrayal as Tarzan was excellent. The only thing I criticise about his performance is that it took him three quarters of the movie to finally let go and show us the awesome beast that is The Legend of Tarzan. Yet again, that wasn’t even his fault, but rather a directing oversight.

LEGEND OF TARZAN
Leon Rom. Source: Disney

The role of the villain was rather puzzling to me, or at least the inclusion of a sort of ‘side-villain’ Mbonga who desired Tarzan’s death was kind of pointless. There was a huge tension building to what I assumed was to be a great encounter with this heinous tribal leader, ending not with a bang, but merely as a small branch Tarzan leaped over on his way to the actual showdown between himself and Rom. On the other hand, moving away from the criticism, Waltz’s portrayal of the devilish Leon Rom was spot on! Familiar with evil characters, Waltz’ villainous archetype was a startling reminder of his smug and devious character seen in “inglorious Bastards”, but obviously a little more toned down than Tarantino’s malevolent depiction

At the end of the day, there is a great original Tarzan in Yates’ remake.

It is sprinkled with several well-executed scenes that highlight Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original novel and the Tarzan we all love. Disappointingly though, these scenes are far too few, and don’t take away from the fact that it’s still overflowing with too many rough edges that fail to bring together gripping moments nor gets your adrenaline pumping. If you are wondering why I haven’t talked about Samuel L. Jackson’s performance, its because he offers very little besides for the occasional gag, but that’s about it.

I don’t discourage you from seeing this film. But I do recommend your expectations are lowered before buying tickets so that you are not entirely disappointed.

Yet again, if you think otherwise or have thoughts about “The Legend of Tarzan” I’d love to hear them and discuss! So please let us know!

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