Coming in as the second Disney animated movie turned live-action, Tarzan swings back into the modern era and back into the theaters. Back in April of this year, Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book was a prime example of turning a beloved Disney property from the past into a great, new adaptation for the present day audience. So did this movie do the same? Let’s break it down.
The Legend of Tarzan is directed by David Yates (the guy who directed a few of the best Harry Potter films) and stars Alexander Skarsgard as John Clayton III AKA Tarzan, everyone’s favorite yelling-at-the-top-of-his-lungs, vine swinging dude. Except in this movie, he’s not who you would expect him to be. This movie takes place years after the events of the original Tarzan we all know and shows Tarzan, now going by John Clayton III, living in royalty with his wife, Jane as a civilized gentleman. However, when an evil businessman threatens Clayton’s homeland of the Congo, he must revert back to his primal state of mentality in order to save his people and his first home.
And that was just the short version of this movie’s plot. There’s plenty of more back story and subplots that are going on, but honestly, they’re either too convoluted to understand or they’re too minor to care about them completely.
Alexander Skarsgard is fine as Tarzan, he definitely looks and feels the part. Dude is seriously ripped, he must’ve done like a thousand crunches a day to play this role. Acting wise, nothing groundbreaking or amazing, but I kinda figured that going into this film. It’s Tarzan, he’s the man of few words and lets his actions do the talking for him. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happens. No real problem with Skarsgard’s portrayal.
Tarzan’s wife, Jane Clayton played by Margot Robbie is also very good here, another solid performance from Robbie. From Wolf on Wall Street to Focus, she’s one of those actresses that’s really grown on me through time. Another thing I dug about her portrayal was that she didn’t play the generic, “damsel in distress”. She’s actually a strong, resilient woman, which is great to see. Side note: seriously can’t wait for Suicide Squad next month, that looks awesome.
By far, the best part of this movie is Samuel L. Jackson. His character looks like the only one that’s having a good time. Jackson’s performance as George Washington Williams is the comedic relief of this film. Some of comedy hits and some of it misses, but overall, he looks like he’s having fun. There’s one line in particular that hit the funny bone good and it was hilarious. Nonetheless, he was a good supporting actor and partner to Skarsgard’s Tarzan.
Christoph Waltz is just Christoph Waltz, the same old song and dance bad guy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good actor, but there’s nothing new or different about his performance here that would differ from his performance in say, Spectre. He’s just a bad guy with an evil scheme. That’s it.
Now let’s address some of this movie’s biggest issues.
First, the pacing. Holy crap, this film is just so slow to get into. Nothing of real importance happens until the start of the second hour so for the first hour, you’ll just be sitting on your hands and waiting for anything to happen. Even at times when business starts picking up and stuff begins to happen, the movie doesn’t give it time to let it simmer and let the audience absorb what just happened. It’s just very poor-paced movie, especially for a movie with Tarzan in it.
Which leads to my second point, it’s a Tarzan movie… Why isn’t this movie more fun to watch? Because this film just takes itself way too seriously. This about a half naked guy that swings around on vines, who screams at the top of his lungs, talks to animals, and is adopted by a family of apes. That premise only just sounds like a fun movie, but this movie’s tone won’t let it go there. It’s just not as ambitious as a Tarzan movie should be.
All in all, this movie wasn’t what it could have been. There are glimmers of hope throughout the film, but it’s snail-like paced and lack of fun holds it back, thus not giving the audience any good reason to be invested in its character and plot. Other side nitpicks included its comedy not being very effective (aside from Samuel L. Jackson’s performance) and its CGI not looking not up to par. The apes and other animals just didn’t look to very believable.
With that said, I’m going to give The Legend of Tarzan a solid “C” on the movie grading scale. Can’t recommend going out and see it right away, but I do believe this movie can entertain a certain group of people if you’re a big fan of Tarzan because this film still does respect its original source material. Basically, this is as good as a modern day Tarzan movie is going to get.
As always, thanks so much for reading and make sure to stay posted to Frank’s Takes for more reviews. Until next time, keep it 100.