David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan is very much like its famous protagonist.
It’s an aimless spectacle, one that begs you to look at the well-chiseled masculine form that fits within the unrealistic standards of our superhero-addicted culture to a T. It’s also updated and supposedly more relevant, one that has graduated from the B-movie aspirations of its numerous predecessors. Sadly, it’s also quite dull, a prudish pageant that is dangerously devoid of any personality.
From brute to baron
Yates’ grand ambitions are quite clear.
He wants the Tarzan of old to matter in this age of political correctness and historical revisionism. He wants his hero to matter, not just in an escapist kind of way, but in the way a lot of the comic book superheroes matter – with a manufactured semblance of relevance that takes them away from their juvenile beginnings and into a sort of semi-serious art. In a way, he more or less succeeds.
His Tarzan, as portrayed by a surprisingly monotonous Alexander Skarsgard, is some sort of freedom fighter. Sure, his origins as scribed by Edgar Rice Burroughs remain intact, as depicted by flashbacks that are scattered throughout the film. However, Yates and writers Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer have decided to set Tarzan's adventures in the middle of Congo during its dark colonial days. The proposition is interesting on paper. Sadly, it also betrays much of what has made the character so timelessly entertaining.
The weight of Yates’ ambitions fall heavily on his film’s ability to deliver joy. By introducing Tarzan as a brooding gentleman who is tricked into going back to Africa by desperate Belgians, the film is forced to spend a chunk of its time in the grip of colorless civilization.
By the time the film enters the jungle, it has already exposed its titular character as a gullible bore, one who needs a wise-cracking sidekick, played by a slightly amusing Samuel L Jackson, and a fierce wife, played by Margot Robbie, to sustain any sort of interest.
Too little adventure
There is just too little adventure in this adventure flick.
While it aspires for relevance, its plot remains thin. Aside from the King of Belgium conspiring to get himself out of bankruptcy by exploiting the natural wealth and the people of Africa, it's really just about a man saving a damsel in distress from another ruthless but ultimately forgettable villain. Christoph Waltz plays this villain without need of any effort.
Tarzan does what is expected of him. He swings from vine to vine. He fights gorillas, and sort of communicates with other beasts of the jungle. He even shouts his trademark shout, although with a tone that feels a little bit less adorned than before. Unfortunately, Yates’ insistence to keep his hero within allowable bounds of realism, propriety, and tact keeps the film from achieving its potential.
It also makes a lot of the visual effects guffaws less forgivable, considering that the film is gearing towards being less of a cartoon and more of a piece of historical fiction.
Simply put, the film is sloppily crafted, one that relies too heavily on its needless upgrades on a classic material but ultimately neglects the elements of proper entertainment. – Rappler.com