The Legend of Tarzan.
I didn’t have any excitement about this movie going in. I don’t particularly care about Tarzan as a character. I never read any of the old books, I don’t remember the Disney film, it’s just not really a thing for me. So going in, I had low expectations. Did this movie manage to impress me?
This movie starts and Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) is already acclimated to civilized life. He’s not living in the jungles anymore. He’s married to Jane (Margot Robbie) and they’re living a normal life. Then slowly a plot begins which not only brings them back to Africa but slowly reveals the origin of Tarzan, including why returning to Africa might lead to his death. They’re accompanied by an American named George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) and sought after by a Belgian villain played by Christoph Waltz. We also have Djimon Hounsou as the leader of a tribe that is looking for Tarzan as well.
Almost immediately, this film drew me in. I thought it was visually stunning, showing lots of sweeping shots of Africa that really set the tone for this movie. To complement the setting, the other visual effects are pretty fantastic as well, for the most part. They don’t compare to The Jungle Book, but they’re pretty close, which is still saying a lot.
In terms of casting, most everyone pulls their weight. It took awhile for me to accept Samuel L. Jackson, as he talks and acts like he always does, which seems a little incongruous to the setting of this movie. He delivers most of the humor in this movie and has a much larger role than I expected. Christoph Waltz was also a compelling villain but it’s nothing we haven’t seen him already do, so his typecasting is a little unfortunate.
While I was watching this movie, I found myself grinning. It’s a very classic movie but it does it very well. It’s predictable yes, but it hits all the right notes and it feels both familiar and reliable.
I also appreciated the tact of which this movie handled larger world issues. It managed to address things like slavery and poaching in ways that felt natural to this story, so it didn’t feel obtrusive. Of course Tarzan would have problems with these things, so it made sense in the context of the story.
What didn’t work?
The weakest link for me was actually Skarsgard as Tarzan. He wasn’t bad but I think it’s hard to make this version of Tarzan work. A man in a suit who used to swing through trees. He seems upset and mad all the time, seemingly intentional, but it makes for a boring character. He hardly talks, so he’s just this brooding guy. Not super compelling.
The Legend of Tarzan is a good time. You may not be super interested in Skarsgard’s version of this character but the story they put him into is relatively compelling, full of rich imagery and great visual effects. It’s a classical film. It feels very familiar but it’s done extremely well. Most audiences, both children and adults, will find things to love about this movie.