There are certain flaws that can be overlooked or minimized in a summer action picture as long as it can be entertaining. “The Legend of Tarzan” isn’t one of those movies. On top of all of the other problems with this thing, it’s downright boring.
The film follows Tarzan’s life after his time growing up in the jungle. Now going by John Clayton, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) is a well dressed, affluent individual living in London with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). He’s asked to return to Africa, though, by an American named George Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) who’s investigating a case of slavery.
Subsequently, this trip also makes Tarzan the target of a man named Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who needs to capture the legendary man of the jungle to be used as leverage in a nefarious plot.
“The Legend of Tarzan” has an alright premise, starting off with the well known character having to live in London rather than where he was raised. The movie crashes rather quickly, though, as the story devolves into a simple damsel in distress thread. Once the enemy and allies have been established, the film is more or less just watching Tarzan try to save Jane.
This ultimately makes much of the journey predictable and therefore dull. It’s not as if there aren’t any subplots going on, it’s just that many of them feel either tacked on or glossed over. There’s a small segment of time dedicated to Jane having a miscarriage, but it’s only brought up a few times. Then there’s a revenge plot, dealing with a character who has a vendetta against Tarzan. The issue here is that it just serves as a catalyst to get Tarzan going rather than actually having much of a payoff.
It all equals a movie that lacks in suspense because of a generic story and in engaging character arcs because not enough depth is given to anything. The film simply plods along and feels like a chore to sit through.
Along with having a tedious story and underdeveloped subplots, the movie also features a rather uncomfortable amount of the “white savior” trope. Many of the film’s action sequences display Tarzan doing the most incredible things and the Africans living in Congo cheering him on.
Likely the weakest part of this whole picture is Tarzan himself. Skarsgard is completely wooden in the lead role, offering no energy, charisma or charm to Tarzan. During his scenes of interaction his delivery is dry and borderline emotionless.
At the very least, Jackson brought some energy to the screen in his role. However, his character was written oddly in that the tone was all over the place. At some points, he’s the serious, tough as nails frontiersman and at others he seemed like a comedy relief sidekick from a buddy cop flick.
As for the film’s villain, two-time Academy Award Winner Christoph Waltz doesn’t add much. Waltz does have fantastic screen presence, but on top of portraying a typical villainous character driven by greed, he also doesn’t come off as all that threatening. For some reason the movie made his special skill fighting with a bracelet and it looks downright absurd.
Then there’s Margot Robbie, and there’s not much to say about her performance. As previously stated, Jane is reduced to a damsel in distress in this picture and Robbie doesn’t get much to do with her role besides scowl at Waltz’s character every now and then.
With all its flaws, “Tarzan” should have at least been a thrilling visual experience. Unfortunately, this is not the case. First, the action sequences looked poorly edited, with many appearing choppy and incoherent. In multiple moments that were supposed to be suspenseful, it was difficult to see what was going on.
Another issue with the film from a visual standpoint is that the CGI wasn’t all that convincing. Compared to “The Jungle Book,” which was released earlier this year and featured spectacular effects bringing a variety of animals to life, “The Legend of Tarzan” completely fails.
This telling of Tarzan’s story doesn’t stand out from the rest on any level. Its characters aren’t given enough depth, the acting isn’t memorable, the story is generic and the action doesn’t hold attention. Overall, this was a largely poor attempt. 1 out of 5.