The Legend of Tarzan (2016) Review:
As we reach the middle of the summer blockbuster season, I think it’s time to acknowledge: This is a really weird summer. After the explosive way it began with ‘Captain America: Civil War’, week after week has been a constant stream of movies that were just…strange. I would go into most of them not really excited and leave the mostly just confused, but not exactly disappointed. That’s what happened with Independence Day 2, Ninja Turtles 2, and Warcraft. Thus far, there hasn’t really been a movie that was worth raving about. That even includes ‘Finding Dory’ which I’ve had retroactive mixed feelings about.
‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is no different. I didn’t hate it, but I couldn’t argue with someone that did, and I understood it, but that’s mostly because it’s really stupid at times. I won’t even call this a live action remake of a Disney classic. It’s touted as being a more faithful adaptation of the original story. The untold story if you will. The movie takes place 8 years after Tarzan’s left the jungle. He took back his birth name, got a mansion and just boatloads of cash. Safe to say after spending decades in a jungle world, he landed on his feet.
The jungle though is not finished with the lord of the apes. A convoluted plot involving slavery, warring tribes and special diamonds brings Tarzan back to his home. Here he must face his demons and come to terms with the wild within the wildman. Along for the ride is Margot Robbie as the Jane to Alexander Skarsgard’s Tarzan, Christoph Waltz playing himself. Again. And Sam Jackson as Tarzan’s wise cracking second half of a buddy cop jungle duo.
The way Tarzan is sequenced is very much like other reboots of this type. There’s a series of flashbacks that tell the story we know, but in the context of this new story, like in Batman Begins. On the other hand the movie is chocked full of things that are recognizable to us as fans of the franchise but don’t really make sense in this particular film. Reboots are messy work that tend to feel unnecessary which is why the untold story is the go to format. Trying to get you to see the movie because it’s not quite what you saw before.
That however, is incredibly tricky to pull off. Simply because of all the information you have to give to the viewer, just to establish the movie. ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ doesn’t pull this off and has a very difficult to follow first act. If that were it’s only sin, it might be a solid film, but alas, it is not. No, the biggest problem with the movie is that it is utterly ridiculous. It starts out trying to take itself very seriously, but everything to do with plot details or character motivations is paper thin and massively contrived.
The best way I can put it is, this movie is like a big budget exploitation movie. It’s got the brains of a tv movie and the body of a blockbuster. Style over substance is definitely the mantra here. In that regard Tarzan definitely looks good. Its creature effects are about as good as say a ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie. David Yates is a director who knows how to craft a pretty shot so it’s definitely a visually involved movie.
The movie isn’t without it’s moments. It just betrays itself time after time. Whenever it tries to be intelligent or meaningful, Sam Jackson will have a one liner that brings the movie back down to mediocrity. To that end, this is such a wasted cast. I genuinely liked everyone’s performance in the film, but the material to work with just feels lazy sometimes. Yet, not offensively so. At it’s best, ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is a pretty good looking, “so bad it’s funny”, Syfy channel movie. At it’s worst, it’s a forgettable dumb summer blockbuster. For that, I’d say the movie is best if you just Catch It On Cable.
Rating: Catch It On Cable