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.

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Adventure, 3D, Blockbuster

109mins

Rating: M Violence

USA

Official Site

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. 

Empire (UK)

press

Not so much a ripping yarn, more of a dripping yarn, Yates' reinterpretation of the Lord Of The Jungle is a big disappointment.

Hollywood Reporter

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This is certainly the best live-action Tarzan film in many a decade (which, admittedly, isn't saying much) and offers a well-judged balance of vigorous action and engaging-enough drama.

Variety (USA)

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Sequel, origin story and racially sensitive revisionist history lesson all in one. What it isn't is much fun for anyone who's seen Edgar Rice Burroughs' "ape man" in any of his previous incarnations.

Guardian (UK)

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Committed performances aren’t enough to save this film from uncomfortable colonial optics, uninspiring CGI and tedious plotlines

Time Out London

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This isn't quite the jungle VIP - but it's got a little swing.

Rolling Stone (USA)

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It's a heavy thematic load for a single movie to handle — especially this one, which nearly collapses from its burden.

Los Angeles Times

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Wants to be both modern and traditional, hip and classic. It's a tough balance to strike, and this film can't manage it.

New York Times

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What makes it more enjoyable than other recycled stories of this type is that the filmmakers have given Tarzan a thoughtful, imperfect makeover.

NZ Herald (Alex Casey)

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Although uneven at times, The Legend of Tarzan lends an important historical context to the notorious character, which makes it worth a look.

Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

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Pretty much everything it could possibly have been.