The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan ★½

Studios will make films in 3D, but they won't make 3D films. There are only two scenes in the very unnecessary Legend of Tarzan that utilize the IMAX 3D glasses, the ones that stop at nothing from digging into your skull. The first one is with George Williams (Sam Jackson) pointing one of his revolvers directly at us and the second one involves an ostrich that is dangerously close to the camera. Both of these scenes (or shots I suppose) last under five seconds and both of them makes us wonder why we went to the trouble of seeing this in 3D (my screening was free and there was/is no option for standalone IMAX. My life is very hard as you can see).

If only the 3D was the worse of Tarzan's problems. If only the lack of Phil Collins from Disney's animated outing (my personal favorite from them) was the worse of Tarzan's problems. If only Alexander Skarsgård's completely flat performance as said Tarzan was the worse of Tarzan's problems. If only...

The film probably had a chance at reigniting the character of Tarzan if anyone behind the camera had an actual interest in him. They'll invest $180 million into him, but they won't give him two sticks to rub together. The plot is your basic man against nature type dilemma. Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) is a blood thirsty businessman looking to rid a jungle of its precious minerals. The only thing stopping him is an ancient mysterious tribe led by Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou). Mbonga is willing to give out the minerals if Rom were to find and bring him Tarzan so he can settle a personal vendetta.

This ancient tribe relies solely on how mysterious they are to make us have any kind of interest in them as well as Mbonga's problems. Being that Mbonga and his tribe have about two scenes in the whole film it's really hard for you to care about their problems from their point of view. The plan to give Tarzan up for the minerals really doesn't make any sense from Rom's point. He's going to overthrow the tribe/that area of the jungle anyways. Why go through all the trouble of luring Tarzan?

Since Rom didn't want to take the easy route, just how do you entrap Tarzan? By stealing Jane, of course. This is done by luring the two of them back to their original home (somewhere in Africa) and burning down the village. Tarzan then teams up with the local natives as well as George Williams to go rescue Jane in a very unrewarding journey.

The screenplay couldn't be anymore by the books. Everything you think will happen happens. There's absolutely no sense of adventure whatsoever. David Yates' direction is so mind-numbingly dull that by the midway point you unconsciously start calculating how much each scene ate into the budget.

There's one very simple shot that shows just how horrendous the direction is. It's simply just George sending off Tarzan in a carriage at the beginning of the film. Tarzan is inside the carriage with the camera and the camera is faced at George who is on the outside. As George walks away the camera pans to Tarzan's face and we have an incredibly unfocused, awkwardly lighted close-up with the blankest expression on Skarsgård's face. It only lasts a few seconds, but it tells us everything about how the rest of the film will be. An unfocused blank stare.

Skarsgård's isn't a good Tarzan. It's arguable whether this is his own fault or the scripts since he's given almost nothing to work with, as is the rest of the cast. He looks good in the action scenes, though, and there are a couple of cool looking ones (the train scene particularly). It's too bad most of them are edited to death or just the opposite, completely rushed. The film's big final set piece is better executed in the trailer than it is here. The trailer actually has a bit of build-up for it. Here it just sort of happens. That's a good subtitle for the film: TARZAN: It Just Sort of Happens

As misguided as the scene where a fully clothed Tarzan rubs up with a lion for a solid minute (I guess it's suppose to be touching but just comes off as really weird) The Legend of Tarzan gives absolutely no reason why this once legend of film (over 200 film credits) should continue his legacy with a new generation of film goers. It tries so hard to emulate the likes of Marvel studio films and it disappoints in every category from the stilted hero to the mostly messy action sequences. Above all else, it's just a total bore that does nothing new or interesting for a character who's as old as film itself. Just go watch Disney's version or go listen to Phil Collins. They go hand in hand.

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