Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

Movie Name: The Legend of Tarzan
Year of Release: 2016
Director: David Yates
Stars: Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, Simon Russell Beale, Jim Broadbent, Casper Crump, Osy Ikhile, Antony Acheampong
Genre: Adventure, Action
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2

After concluding the Harry Potter series, director David Yates is back with another iconic character being transposed to the big screen, namely the legendary Tarzan. The film is an adaptation of the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and follows the story of John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke, who finds himself being used in the midst of political machinations that involve the mineral richness of Africa. The film introduces us to the mythical origins of John, when his family died in Africa and he was raised in the jungle by apes.  Currently living in London with his wife Jane, John has no interest in going back to Africa. However he is persuaded to go back when he knows there's bigger interests working behind the scenes, and those interests involve enslaving and killing people.  Once in Africa John quickly discovers the real agenda behind the invitation for him to come back to the area where he grew up. And things get much worse very quickly when Jane is kidnapped. It's up to him and his friends to stop these fiends from destroying his homeland and kill his wife.
David Yates is a director who has carved a name for himself with adaptations of very successful books. His films don't particularly exhibit a distinct point of view, but are competent and bring to life intricate and larger than life stories. Tarzan is a character with such history, both literary and in the numerous adaptations that it has had for the screen. One has to ask if it's worthwhile telling a story about such a character these days - the films with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan from the 1930s are without a doubt, the most iconic adaptations this character has had (the flawed Hugh Hudson film "Greystoke" from 1984 didn't fare very well). "The Legend of Tarzan" specifically manages to get so many things wrong, on top of which are also all the possible cliches that exist for an action/adventure film. The opportunity here was ripe for a reinterpretation of what this character is, but sadly aside from the striking visual effects, nothing much works. Scenes are cut rather randomly, alliances and opponents shift gears (and apparently disappear) without much thought and consistency. The lead female character is not given much to do, while Samuel L. Jackson's character is the humorous sidekick, in what is a true disservice to the actor's career. Christoph Waltz as the main villain again recycles what he has done for the past three or four films (his character is basically repeating the mannerisms from his iconic Hans Landa from Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds") and has absolutely no depth, intelligence or true menace. The score from Rupert Gregson-Williams is a poor copycat of something Thomas Newman has done (far better) before. The best thing about the film is Alexander Skarsgard's efforts, who frankly deserves a better film. To be avoided.