Legend-Tarzan

Adventure movies are notorious for having convoluted mythologies taking place all over the globe. They are also usually based off of classic literary yarns penned back in the day by the likes of Welles, Kipling, Verne or in this case Burroughs. And while the source material itself is rich and complex, the moving pictures that a good deal of these works have been transformed into are almost always not. The Legend of Tarzan is one of those ill-conceived by-products that does no justice to the story it is based off of.

John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard) has a wonderful life in London. He is Lord Greystoke, married to his beautiful wife Jane (Margot Robbie) and is quite the modern man. He is hired to travel back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of the British to help with the investigations of certain goings ons in a mining camp. John is unaware that Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) is secretly plotting something nefarious. But the villains involved in the treacherous plot have no clue as to John Clayton’s true identity; that of the mighty Tarzan.

For some reason there are a couple of stories that get remade every few years in an unending cycle of “why are they still doing this?” Peter Pan (1991, 2003, 2015) and Tarzan (1999, 2003, 2013, 2016) are the two biggest culprits of this unfortunate phenomenon. There is always a twist of course as each time the tale becomes a “dark re-imagining”, and each time the effort falls flat. This film is no exception.

Directed by David Yates, The Legend of Tarzan is stuck in a quagmire worthy of the jungles it so desperately tries to recreate. The CGI is passable, as is some of the dialog if you really pay attention, but the set pieces are one striking cliché after another, full of the expected contrasts between the “civilized” world and the untamed wilderness. The cast does their job. Waltz is his usual schmarmy self, a role he has played many times as of late in far better films (usually helmed by Quentin Tarantino), and the two main leads (Skarsgard and Robbie) are compatible and beautiful to look at as they go through the motions. Sadly, there is ZERO sense of danger even though the action scenes and supposed double crosses/shady dealings the script sets up would try to convince us otherwise.

At its worse The Legend of Tarzan is forgettable action fare stuck in the center of the barrage of summer blockbusters like a mid-season replacement show on TV. At its best, it is along the line of The Mummy (1999) or King Kong (2005) as a raucous, action filled adventure yarn seemingly dreamed up by 12-year-old kids and produced by adults of the same mentality. Thankfully the fact that it is not overly long, a sin which many of its contemporary ilk tend to suffer from, may be its only saving grace. At the end of the day Tarzan is cinematic junk food; fun, tasty, empty, but easily forgotten. Unlike a pre-packaged snack cake however, this movie has no chance of having a prolonged shelf life.