The Legend of Tarzan is a brash, big-budget bomb that’ll bore you to tears.
Eight years after Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) and his jungle bae Jane (Margot Robbie) decide to leave Africa to live in his ancestral English home, the duo are enticed back to the Congo by George Williams (Samuel L Jackson); an American diplomat who needs Tarzan to reconnect with his roots and prevent the country from being devastated by a nefarious European imperialist (Christoph Waltz).
Weighed down with lots of heavy exposition, the script loses itself very early on in trying to find a compelling reason for Tarzan and Jane to pack up and sail back to Africa. As best I can tell, it’s something to do with the King of Belgium, a crate full of conflict diamonds, an overdue bank loan and a vengeful tribal leader. It’s needlessly complicated and tremendously uninteresting – just get to the bit where Tarzan strips down to his loincloth already! Sadly, said loincloth never comes; a key example of the next major flaw with this film.
The Legend of Tarzan takes itself very seriously. The colour palette is dark and muted, as if director David Yates has run the entire film through a bleary Instagram filter. Whilst this aesthetic worked for his concluding Harry Potter chapters, it doesn’t work for Tarzan. Where’s the fun? The sense of adventure and wonderment? It’s nowhere to be found amongst the gloomy, rain-soaked jungle and even gloomier London streets. Granted, the film does attempt a sincere appraisal of colonialism, corporate greed and slavery, but this sombre tone doesn’t stack up against a finale that sees Tarzan and his ape buddies team-up against an army of hapless Belgian foot soldiers. That’s not even the worst part – don’t even get me started on the scene where Tarzan swings on vines that act more like zip lines. And they don’t even have the decency to include a single Phil Collins song!
Skarsgård’s performance is stiff and wooden, whilst Robbie’s natural charm is stifled by a script that tasks her with delivering exposition and narrating flashbacks. She shares more screen time with Waltz’s villain than she does Skarsgård, which goes some way to explaining why they share little to no chemistry. Meanwhile, Waltz essentially reprises his role from Spectre; swap the moustache for a white cat and he’s just Blofeld all over again.
The only saving grace is Jackson. He has a good crack at a few gags, but even they struggle to land amongst the limited range of po-faced expressions perpetually etched onto Skarsgård’s handsome visage. Fatally, this film fails to make you feel anything of note; it’s not fun or entertaining, nor is it particularly moving or thrilling. The whole affair is as disappointingly bland and inert as other modern rehashes of definitive serials like The Lone Ranger or John Carter. In adjusting for modern sensibilities, Yates has lost the thrilling sense of adventure and intrigue that characterised Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original books. King of the Jungle he may be, but this Tarzan is nothing more than royally second-rate.
The Legend of Tarzan is available in Australian cinemas from July 7
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films