You can leave the jungle, but the jungle never leaves you. As a young boy, John Clayton the Third (Alexander Skarsgård) grew up in England with two loving parents. On a trip to the Congo, his parents died, and Clayton had nowhere to turn to, except the jungle. He was raised by it and its inhabitants, and thus, The Legend of Tarzan was born.
Now living back in England with his bride Jane (Margot Robbie), Tarzan still carries the legend but has no desire to return to his native environment. But, some potential shadiness brought to light by American George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) indicates that his environment could be in trouble, as could he. Envoy to Belgian King Leopold, Leo Rolm (Christoph Waltz) has plans on capturing the Lord of the Jungle in exchange for diamonds that can be used to essentially rule the Congo in some fashion. Tarzan must go back, to protect what is sacred to him and others.
The Legend of Tarzan, in a way, feels like a 21st century postmodern movie on race relations and xenopobia and people from other groups learning to accept outsiders as their own without flat out saying so. This could totally be yours truly overthinking this, or perhaps finding some positive in a movie during the turbulent times in Baton Rouge and Dallas over the past week at the time of this writing. The latest big screen adaptation of The Lord of the Jungle isn’t as bad as most takes paint it to be, but it certainly can be more of a chore to sit through than anticipated, at least through the first half of the movie.
Director David Yates, easily best known for his contributions to the Harry Potter film franchise, sets up the story as a part origin and part adventure story, oscillating between the two. Truth be told, a 100% origin story probably wasn’t needed anyway (how much can really be told or explored about a man who is raised in the jungle?), but the pace never gets going for this period. Visually, almost all of the scenes early on take place in the same dark jungle lighting that’s pretty obscure and just adds to the overall “blahness” of it all. It’s a shockingly serious film, almost one that forgets it is supposed to be a blockbuster.
But as stated, Yates does get TLOT going in the second half. There’s vine swinging, beautiful lush scenery, Tarzan fighting animals, Tarzan working with animals, basically everything that one would expect and desire with watching a Tarzan film. So, some surprisingly well-looking set pieces are present…it just takes a while to get to. Rupert Gregson-Williams contributes to the score, which also kicks into gear just as the movie does.
From a casting perspective, the movie is filled pretty well. Tarzan’s more of a role where if a person looks the part, they’re gold. Sure there’s speaking involved, but it is generally a physical role. Alexander Skarsgård definitely looks the part, and if there were to be a sequel, he does enough to warrant another turn as the jungle hero. His chemistry with Robbie, who plays a good and strong Jane, isn’t amazing but sound.
A bright spot is Samuel L. Jackson, bringing the humor at times. But, he feels like he’s totally in a different movie as well, with everything and everyone around him being so brooding and heavy and his character being so light, and it ends up making for an odd tonal disconnect in places. Djimon Hounsou, seemingly firmly rooted as a secondary villain in features nowadays, does what is to be expected. Speaking of firmly rooted, Christoph Waltz once again finds himself playing a baddie, and it isn’t all that different from his turns in Horrible Bosses 2, Big Eyes, or Spectre. Might be time to take another role?
The jungle should never be dull, but that is what The Legend of Tarzan is for a good chunk of its runtime. But as the second half shows, Tarzan can absolutely be a fun character to watch. You Jane, Me Tarzan, this movie, OK.
Photo credits go to Collider.com, moviepilot.com, comingsoon.net, and moviepilot.com.
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I think the problem with this is there were so many Tarzan movies already, anything they do is going to seem like treading water. I would probably sit through the movie waiting for what makes this one ‘different’ and not caring much about the whole journey because I know the story already.
I think you’re right. I’ve actually never seen a Tarzan movie until now though, but I obviously know the story.
This just felt pretty average, and a slog to get to the fun. There is fun here, but not enough of it.
somehow this is making a lot of money though, go figure
I second Parlor of Horror’s sentiments. I couldn’t agree more and that’s why I have stayed away from this. What is it exactly doing differently? Apparently nothing.
I still had interest, but probably because as stated, I had never seen a Tarzan movie before, shockingly.
It does little different, so you’re validated in staying away.
On another, but related, note, can we get Christoph Waltz to stop playing villains? That’s FOUR straight films now in which he’s done so and it is starting to feel weird and I may begin to start having trouble taking him seriously anymore.
Yeah it’d be nice to see Waltz do something not overtly villainous for a change. He’s good but let’s not get him typecast, people!
Can’t say I’m in a rush to see this. Yet another retelling of the Tarzan story just not needed. On top of that, the trailer looks terrible. Now that you tell me it’s boring, I have even less incentive to watch this. Maybe one day, if it’s streaming on Netflix or something, but I won’t go out of my way to see it.
I actually got into this show for free! There was some issue with screens (The Secret Life of Pets was apparently playing the same scene as this was…I still don’t know what happened specifically but my theater couldn’t print tix or charge) so they just let all 5 of in for free. So, didn’t pay anything and I’m glad I didn’t.
Hated the trailer. Avoiding the movie.
You’re not missing much. Some fun but it does take a long time to get to.
It does indeed show signs of fun and excitement. But as you say, it should be as flat as it is for certain stretches. I think its blandness is the biggest issue. It isn’t a horrible film. Just nothing that sets itself apart or causes itself to stand out.
I did expect worse. But average can be just as much of a bad thing (or worse, sometimes) than a bad film. Doing surprisingly OK (still a ways to go to make up budget) at the box office with international markets still yet to be released in. But I don’t think a sequel is needed.
I had this pegged as the biggest bomb of 2016. (Who knew The BFG would do even worse?) Tarzan cost $180 million to make even before marketing which is a ridiculous amount to invest in this character. Yet, it’s actually doing decent business. In a summer where movies struggle just to clear $100M, this will easily do that and then some.
And yet the trailers didn’t appeal to me. I’m inclined to side with your review. Possibly a rental at some point.
Minus the BFG (still need to see), family friendly movies along with low budget horror (and of course Captain America) seem to be the only certainties at the box office this summer. Aside from the random overperformer such as Central Intelligence, everything else seems to have done meh or leave in 3 weeks.
I do think starting with Star Trek Beyond on the 22nd, then Jason Bourne and ending with Suicide Squad, a profitable three weeks should be in order. People are HUNGRY for a good summer action blockbuster. That is our best stretch to get one.
Box office for this is surprising to me as well. There’s some fun, but only during the second half did I get some fun. Kind of a bore, otherwise, that I have no real interest in viewing again.
Oh man, this does not look good!
A rental if you are so inclined to do so, good sir.