‘The Legend of Tarzan’ (2016) Film Review

Created in 1912, the Tarzan character has starred in countless movie adaptations over the past century. This filmography ranges from silent films to Disney’s 1999 animated classic. The latest adaptation, Warner Bros.’ The Legend of Tarzan, offers a new take on the mythos. In this film, John Clayton III has left the Congo, but the time has come for him to return.

Upon release, The Legend of Tarzan has received mixed to negative reviews from critics, while it is struggling at the box office. But does the film deserve more success than it has achieved?

As a casual fan of the Tarzan franchise, I personally enjoyed this new adaptation. It’s far from a perfect movie, but I had fun watching it. It’s a very interesting new portrayal of Lord Greystoke, and the storyline is intriguing, albeit not unique. I liked Rupert Gregon-Williams’ score, while Henry Braham’s cinematography was good.

While The Legend of Tarzan’s story isn’t bad, it’s just not very unique beyond its basic premise. The concept of the former Lord of the Apes returning the jungle is fascinating, but other than that, the film’s plot is rather predictable. From a clichéd “damsel in distress” subplot to the generic villain, the film plays out pretty much exactly how you would expect. There are few surprises plot-wise, especially if you have seen the trailers.

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The acting in The Legend of Tarzan is solid. Alexander Skarsgard does a very good job playing Tarzan. He really sells the physicality of the character, and he also pulls off Clayton’s softer, more human side. Margot Robbie is pretty good as Jane, but for a good amount of the film, she fills the “damsel in distress” role, which is disappointing. Christoph Waltz’ Captain Léon Rom is also underwhelming, as he is a rather one-dimensional villain.

However, Samuel L. Jackson’s George Washington Williams is one of the movie’s highlights and is responsible for many of its humorous moments. Next to Tarzan himself, he is arguably the most memorable character from the film. And finally, Djimon Hounsou is good as Chief Mbonga, a formidable opponent for Tarzan.

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The visual effects in The Legend of Tarzan are a mixed bag. Some of the African scenery is just beautiful, with David Yates’ directorial work particularly shining here. Also, seeing Tarzan swinging on vines was a lot of fun. However, other sequences show clearly unfinished CGI. From a fake-looking leopard to painfully obvious green screen, the unfinished visuals is disappointing, especially compared to the likes of The Jungle Book and the recent Planet of the Apes films. Not to mention, the film has a huge $180 million budget; with that big a figure, you would think the CGI would look better. I mean, who in their right mind spends nearly $200 million on making a Tarzan movie?

In conclusion, The Legend of Tarzan is not a perfect movie. Hell, it’s not even a great movie. But it is still entertaining, with some solid performances and exciting action scenes. If you can overlook the dodgy CGI and predictable storyline, I recommend seeing The Legend of Tarzan. If nothing else, it’s a fun time at the cinema.

3-5-stars

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