The Legend of Tarzan: a forgettable flop
The latest reincarnation of Tarzan is The Legend of Tarzan starring Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, and Samuel L. Jackson. Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), or John Clayton as he is now known, is living a peaceful life in London with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) until the Belgium government comes knocking; inviting him back to the Congo where King Leopold is colonizing. The government tells Tarzan that they want him to see the progress they have made and bring him back home to get his blessing.
While proposing this travel, an American soldier by the name of George Washington Williams explains that the government really wants to use Tarzan’s celebrity to endorse their actions in the Congo. Tarzan still refuses. Dr. Williams pursues him once he has left the government building and explains that he believes the Belgians are creating an army and want to enslave all the people of the Congo and that Tarzan must help him. Torn between his new life and returning to the jungle, Tarzan decides it is best to go back to the Congo to ensure the safety of his friends and family. Once his wife Jane learns of his trip, she refuses to be left behind and George Washington Williams, Jane and Tarzan set out for the Congo.
Meanwhile back in the Congo, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), a man working to secure the Congo for King Leopold, is organizing the capture of Tarzan once he arrives. His intentions are evil and is only looking out for himself, not caring who he has to kill or enslave to secure the favor of the king.
While the film has some strengths and some weaknesses, there is not enough of the former to make it truly memorable. The film is visually striking and has great special effects and imagery. The scenes in which Tarzan is in the jungle are beautifully shot and engaging. The scenery shots of the Congo are beautiful and really portray the immensity of the landscape. The animals in the film are really lifelike and well designed. They move with grace and are so natural in the environment. It is amazing how far CGI has come with creating entire beings and worlds. In addition to beautiful visuals, the film has great costume, make up and hair design, adding even more to the striking visual element. The native Africans have ornate body make up and well designed costumes that really make an impact. The clothing for Tarzan, Jane and George Washington Williams are very nicely designed. The contrast between what Jane and Tarzan look like in London versus the jungle really adds another level of the wildness of the jungle.
The story in The Legend of Tarzan is engaging and interesting. At certain points during the film, I found myself, totally immersed in the world. Tarzan is fighting to save the people and places he loves from the evil colonization by King Leopold. The story is simple and concise which makes the focus of the film really on the visuals and the performances.
Unfortunately, there is some pretty terrible dialogue, particularly between George Washington Williams and Tarzan. There is one scene where they talk about the gorilla’s balls. It was just so awkward and out of place, it completely removed me from the film. Another major problem with the film is that I didn’t really feel a chemistry between Tarzan and Jane. It was obvious they loved each other but I think the level of Tarzan’s wildness and reclusion took away a level of intimacy between the two. Their performances separately weren’t bad, but just not memorable enough to help elevate the film. George Washington Williams’ character really didn’t fit in the story for me. He was there for a weird level of comic relief, but all I could see was Samuel L. Jackson.
While The Legend of Tarzan had some truly great elements, they didn’t fit together to make a legendary film. The terrible dialogue, lack of chemistry between characters and the miscast of Samuel L. Jackson really turn The Legend of Tarzan into a flop.