The Legend of Tarzan 3D
Out Now On-Demand
Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) is chest-thumping icon Tarzan in this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic tale from filmmaker David Yates (who directed the last four Harry Potter films). Co-stars Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) as Jane.
It has been years since Tarzan left the jungles of Africa for a gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane at his side. Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by Captain Leon Rom (Waltz). But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.
Adventure, 3D, Blockbuster
Rating: M Violence
It’s not an altogether unfamiliar experience to come out of a film thinking “what the hell did I just watch?” That’s largely the realm of film festival or arthouse selections, though, or the result of external factors - illness, fatigue, poor dietary decisions. Not so often does it apply to presumptive blockbusters, of which The Legend of Tarzan most assuredly is one, while at the same time being a confusing pile of sight and sound.
The film wisely foregoes being a simple origin story (excepting extensive flashbacks), as well as dodging modern reinterpretation (set towards the end of the 19th century, where distant corners of the world still enjoyed mystery - and the presence of endangered species). In fact, it's largely a chase pic, though Mad Max: Fury Road this ain't.
There's not much storytelling meat on Tarzan’s bones. Just on Alexander Skarsgård’s torso. And arms. And etc. Hopefully that will be enough for some.
Aside from leering at Tarzan’s physique, there’s enjoyment to be found in the supporting performances around him, but as with everything about the film, this is tempered with problems. Samuel L. Jackson crackles as his sidekick, providing excellent comic relief and dramatic gravitas - but nothing ends up being made of his African-American Civil War veteran status.
Likewise, Margot Robbie’s a fine enough Jane, but spends most of her time in damsel-in-distress mode. By the time she joins enamoured villain (and her kidnapper) Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) for dinner, I found myself wondering if nothing had really changed for female love interests in the 25 years since Marion and Belloq (with whom Rom may even share a hatmaker) had a similar drink together in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Confusing action sequences, ropy CGI animals and landscapes further hinder proceedings, even while director David Yates shows he has the odd nifty stylistic idea. Lacking in spectacle overall, light on adventure, and weakly written, it’s hard to see how we’re supposed to consider this legendary viewing.
Time Out London
Rolling Stone (USA)
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
NZ Herald (Alex Casey)
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)