Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Review: The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan (2D)
Cert: 12A / 110 mins / Dir. David Yates / Trailer

There are reasons why Tarzan movies keep getting pitched, keep getting made and keep disappearing without trace. David Yates' The Legend of Tarzan is both an addition to that list of films, and embodiment of the reasons they flounder. At its core, this iteration of the king-of-the-swingers is an old-fashioned adventure, trying to force the square-pegs of modern sensibility into the round-holes of colonial swashbuckling. And all the Sam Jackson in the world isn't going to make it feel relevant to an audience who can't leave their phones alone for the run-time.

The film begins with John Tarzan having acclimated to London as Lord Greystoke with his wife Jane, when he receives a diplomatic invitation to return to the Congo-basin from the Belgian royal family. Then it turns out it wasn't the royal family after all but Captain Rom, played by a Christoph Waltz who seems to have forgotten that now he's been Blofeld, he's already reached 'peak villain-who-explains-his-diabolical-plot-at-every-turn'. So then John Tarzan has to take his shirt off and run around in the jungle to put things right. Standard.

Alexander Skarsgård is relatively passable as the titular hero, but only due to the amount of screen-time he gets as a result of his billing. Both Margot Robbie and Christolph Waltz look faintly embarassed (and well they should) as they try to inject some character into script-tropes who are anything but. Jackson, on the other hand, is having the most amount of fun earning his beer-money, even if his swaggering American Civil War veteran feels unbelievably anachronistic, reminding the audience with every witticism that they could be at home watching a Tarantino flick instead. By the time you incorporate a couple of Congolese tribes with varying degrees of Noble Savagery™ and the Belgian army consisting of largely inept cowards, the whole thing just feels like an awkward liberal-guilt trip.

But it's not just the storytelling, characterisations and conflicting values which let the film down. We also get some CGI gorillas which won't convince the crowd who watched Planet of the Apes or The Jungle Book, as well as a swinging-through-the-treetops sequence (as the gang attempt to board a moving train) with some of the worst greenscreen work in recent memory. And just for good measure there's a stilted "love scene" and a laboured "lick his nuts" joke which, while they may well have cleared the BBFC hurdles, feel woefully out of place for the tone of a 12A movie.

In summary, I'm not entirely sure who The Legend of Tarzan is aimed at; too 'modern' for the purists, too 'old' for the kids, too messy for fans of coherent screenwriting. I didn't actively dislike the film, but that's mainly because it's not really worthy of the effort.

Just because your source-material is 'classic', that doesn't mean it's timeless…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The Three Musketeers. Yeah. I went there.
Same performance from Waltz, too…

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
You might as well, since it'll lose even more impact by the time it hits your home-screen.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not too much.
But a bit, yeah

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mace Windu's in it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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