Saturday, July 2

REVIEW: The Legend of Tarzan

Directed by David Yates
2016 Action Adventure
1 hour, 49 minutes
From Warner Bros & Village Roadshow

Alexander Skarsgard
Samuel L. Jackson
Margot Robbie
Christoph Waltz
Djimon Hounsou
Jim Broadbent

Bring in the old, bring in the new.  The old is it's Tarzan.  He may have been raised by apes, I was raised on Tarzan.  There was Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Denny Miller, Mike Henry.  Tarzan had big muscles, Jane and animals loved him, he never said much, he swung from tree to tree and some menacing no-goods were out to capture or kill him. Some things never change.  I could really close now, having done my job and told you all you really need to know. But somehow I will find the stamina to go on.

I at first questioned why anyone would do another Tarzan until I realized that it's been quite some time since there's been a live-action Tarzan.  The last one I saw in theaters was 1981s Tarzan the Ape Man with Bo Derek hogging the screen as Jane and super buff Miles O'Keeffe nearly mute as Tarzan. So there are new audiences out there who have never seen a live-action Tarzan and there are Hollywood types who want to change that.

And they brought in the new.  One thing that's definitely new is this is the most dressed Tarzan yet.  Make sure you're seated for my next revelation... Tarzan is never in a loincloth.  Ouch.  Nope, not once. Before you run for the kitchen knife, may I assuage your grief with the knowledge that Alexander Skarsgard is shirtless a great deal and that ain't bad.  See?  Now things aren't really so bleak, are they?

More new is that this is a 2016 production and with it comes an orgy of CGI and with that, of course, comes over the top and at the slam-bam finish, a whole bunch of preposterous silliness.  

This Tarzan is similar in a number of ways to 1984s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (which I saw for the first time a couple of weeks ago) in that we spend time with wealthy John Clayton at his castle home in England.  We see him, therefore, dressed to the nines, hair shorter and combed and teeth brushed.  It isn't until we return to the jungle that we see Clayton's alter-ego, Tarzan.  Here is that general storyline again.  Not only is there no loincloth, most everyone in this one calls him John. Sigh.

My favorite Alexander Skarsgard pic

Oh, now you don't want to go.  Well, hold on a minute.  Here, John is hood-winked in returning to Africa.  He doesn't want Jane to return with him but it's her homeland, too, and she gets her way. There is tomfoolery all around and when the bad guys can't capture Tarzan, they take Jane as a lure.  That's all you need to know at this point... not that you can't basically figure it all out.

The film passes the biggest test for me... it is entertaining. I'll hand it that but let's not overstate anything either.  This is hardly The Lion in Winter or Beckett or Out of Africa.

My attendance stemmed from the fact that Tarzan and I have been friends for years, as I said, and I wanted to see what he's been up to. If the story's a little routine, no one told the cast because they took it all quite seriously.  Skarsgard isn't too difficult to watch for an hour and 49 minutes and neither is Margot Robbie in a spirited performance.  Bringing them both to this project was smart although I suspect they were better for Tarzan than Tarzan is for them.

Lovely Margot Robbie as the feisty Jane

Samuel Jackson (with hair), as a diplomatic envoy and trusted aide to Tarzan, displayed some nice comic relief and Christoph Waltz as the head villain (duh) is a little more restrained than he usually is but still effective.  Djimon Hounsou, as a tribal chief who is at the heart of the scam to get John Clayton to return to Africa, was perfect in his brief scenes.  I wish he worked more and in starring roles.  I find him a completely mesmerizing actor.

The look of the entire piece is quite arresting. The contrast between stately life in England and vine-swinging in the Congo is striking. The African scenes that were real... the mountains, fog, early mornings, streams... were tops, a treat.  Cinematographer Henry Braham and production designer Stuart Craig (who performed the same job on Greystoke all those years ago) gave the film a wonderful look.

I realize it's been released over a long holiday weekend to capture the summer blockbuster dollars but I suspect it will fare less well than some of the others.

Next posting:
Good 40s films

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe it! Like happy days, Tarzan is here again! In spite of all those guys that wore is 'cloth', my Tarzan is still Johnny Weismuller. When I saw is first movies I was still innocent, but something in my brain made me hope that a stroke of Wind could lift his loincloth a little higher than his groin, sure that he had nothing underneath.
    Well, this post made me do a pleasant jump in the past.I hope I'll have the chance to see it. I am sure it will be great fun. Thanks. Ciao.