Cast - 70%
Story - 50%
Music Score - 55%
Effects/Quality - 65%
Originality - 65%
A promising film with a good leading cast, but also a rushed plot and odd pacing.
Tarzan has been a captured the imagination of many in pop culture since the character’s creation over a century ago, appearing in everything from books, comics, film serials, television, video games and the big screen. Aside from the hit Disney film ‘Tarzan’ and some lesser publicised CG animated film not too long ago, Tarzan hasn’t had a major live film presence since ‘Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes’ in 1984. Being both captivated and scared by that film as a kid and seeing it again only a few years ago, I was very intrigued when the ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ was announced. How would Tarzan, this long standing and famous character be reintroduced and reinterpreted for a new generation of children and film goers alike? The answer is two-fold.
Alexander Skarsgård visually captures the look everyone would expect from Tarzan and got in incredible shape for this role. Between the physique and his movements, he’s got that aspect covered and the slightly altered clothing from traditional loincloth to khaki coloured pants is a nice little upgrade. Seeing Tarzan walk on his knuckles, fight humans and gorillas, run across ancient trees and swing from vines is truly a sight to behold and visually presented very well. One could point out that some of the physics of the vine swinging are nowhere near plausible based on velocity, trajectory and the distance we see them cover; however this is such a minor gripe in the overall product that we shan’t get into that. Margot Robbie presents a headstrong, feisty Jane Porter who is every bit Tarzan’s equal in this film and Samuel L. Jackson has some comedic moments as Tarzan’s US sidekick George Washington Williams who is based on a real figure from the time period, as is Léon Rom. Little at this point needs to be said about Christoph Waltz’s understated and subtle portrayal of the villainous Captain Léon Rom as one generally knows what to expect from him. The core cast is fine and there are some cool moments and action sequences.
What lets this film down is the story and pacing. On paper, the premise of this film sounds very interesting. King Leopold II of Belgium, having claimed the Congo Basin, is on the verge of countrywide bankruptcy and sends his envoy Léon Rom to secure the fabled diamonds of Opar. Rom then makes a deal with the vengeful Chief Mbonga of the leopard men tribe to lure Tarzan back to the Congo and deliver him to the chief in exchange for the diamonds. However even the first scene which establishes this premise isn’t perfect in its execution and requires a slight leap in logic in order to accept it and move on with the story. Then we have Tarzan in England living with his wife Jane, who despite not being comfortable in society (barely at all hinted at in the film), is not too keen to return to his African home. We assume he suspects something, but we never know for sure. He definitely does not want Jane joining him, but she eventually wears him down despite his concerns, the return to Africa and our movie is underway. Characters appear quickly and some are taken out just as quickly. Questions are raised about Tarzan’s loyalty to and role within his ape family, however that is seemingly resolves all too quickly for the issues raised. Tarzan does get nearly as many moments to shine in all his glory as one would expect him to and the confrontation between our title character and one of his adversaries is resolved in a rather unsatisfying manner and never mentioned again. The film also makes use of flashbacks scattered throughout in order to retell Tarzan’s origins and key early moments, which are mostly unrelated to the rest of the story and disrupt the flow. It’s an interesting way of incorporating that information, but one wonders if it couldn’t have been handled differently or incorporated in another way that would enhance the overall story. There is also a minor side theme of the African slave trade that you’ll barely remember this aspect of the film by the time it’s over. Overall, a good but flawed and rushed film.
This film had much promise and the early teaser trailers has my interest piqued, however the final product didn’t quite pack nearly enough punch as I had hoped it would. It features a good cast and in checking the boxes of Tarzan style moments that one would expect, does them well, however this seems more of a film with some good moments and less so for the narrative which with some more work (or editing) could have been something more special. It’s a good time waster that will entertain if you’re looking for a movie to check out, but nothing memorable enough to remember long after viewing.
Tarzan Reborn (Featurette): A nice featurette explaining the lore of Tarzan and providing some context to the story and characters which would have served the film better if it were in the actual film and not an extra on the DVD and Blu-Ray.
Gabon to the Big Screen: A short extra celebrating the majesty of Africa and the animal kingdom in this film.
Stop Ivory PSA: Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie’s public service announcement on the dangers the ivory trade poses to the elephant population.
Reviewed on: DVD
Available on: DVD, Blu-Ray, Digtial
Genre: Action, Adventure
Age Rating: PG 13
Estimated RRP: R100+
Release Date: 24 October 2016
- Alexander Skarsgård looks like a Tarzan for the modern age
- Good Tarzan moments
- Rushed story with poor and unsatisfying conclusion to issues and threats
- Flashbacks throw off pacing and feel disconnected from main plot (all but 1)