Another day, another reboot. Seems Hollywood has: (a) finally run out of stories, or (b) finally learnt to recognise a good one. ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ nudges us towards (b) - but how far in the right direction?
Most interpretations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ story of the British Lord raised by apes focus on his time in the jungle and meeting the American Jane Porter. There’s a fair amount of grunting and vine-swinging and falling in love. ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ assumes we know all that, for the most part. If you don’t, never fear, because well-placed flashbacks and dialogue will fill you in. The film opens with a bit of history to create a believable setting of politics and the ruthless pillaging of Africa that the colonial powers of the late 1800s indulged in. The Belgians have claimed the Congo but over-extended themselves, so what follows is a slightly convoluted plot about debts and diamonds and old grudges.
The plot isn’t all that important, really, as what we’re here for are some pretty awesome special effects, and a helluva lot of bare-chested Alexander Skarsgård. Cinematography is spectacular, though it is rather obvious in some scenes that this is a film shot with 3D in mind; the screening I attended was 2D so I can’t comment on how well the 3D works. The score is pretty good, paying homage to African tribal melodies and emphasising the warmth and welcoming feel of their music.
Skarsgård does okay, for the most part. His accent falters here and there, and he really only holds one expression through most of the film. He hasn’t yet shaken the mantle of Eric from ‘True Blood’, and that’s a shame because we know he can do better (see ‘Generation Kill’ for the evidence). Margot Robbie does better as Jane who refuses to play the damsel but finds herself in that position anyway. The supporting cast are all fairly decent, but it’s Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz who make this film worth watching. Waltz is his uniquely menacing self as the villain while Jackson has embraced his age and experience, delivering warmth, determination and humour as investigator Williams.
The plot isn’t all that important, really, as what we’re here for are some pretty awesome special effects, and a helluva lot of bare-chested Alexander Skarsgård.
With sumptuous scenic vistas, ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ inspires travel to Africa. Speampunk fans will enjoy the setting, and the quality of production is top-notch. The animals are all CGI and it’s clear that the technology has progressed in leaps and bounds (see what I did there?) in recent times. The only times it falls short are during Tarzan’s vine-assisted acrobatics. Other failings involve the almost complete disregard for the laws of physics or biology, but if you can suspend your disbelief for the last 20 minutes of the film, this is a pretty good ride.
If you plan on seeing ‘The Legend of Tarzan’, you should most definitely see it in the cinema. This is a film for the big screen.