The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review
Me Tarzan, you suck. The Legend of Tarzan is here and it's just as underwhelming as you'd expect it to be, a tonally inconsistent but consistently bland adventure flick where some things work but most don't.
It's not that David Yates (who directed the last four Harry Potter movies) made a terrible movie. It's that he made the worst kind of bad movie: the offensively inoffensive mediocre kind, a movie that is by no means laughably bad but so lacking fun factor it exists merely to exist, an instantly forgettable retelling of a character who is best left on the page.
As feared, The Legend of Tarzan takes itself too seriously, opting to present Tarzan as an unsmiling bore of a man. The movie is not an origin story, or if it is you can tell the filmmakers didn't want it to come off as such. Tarzan’s origins are revealed, but through extremely boring, unnecessary and distracting flashbacks that add countless minutes I'll never get back and, arguably worse, even pop up in the middle of action sequences, effectively destroying the already shaky pace Yates establishes.
The movie takes well over 40 minutes before anything remotely interesting happens (save for the pretty good pre-title scene), and then choppily dives into some shrug-worthy action scenes. For a movie where the audience just really wants to see Alexander Skarsgaard take off his shirt and/or swing through jungles and punch things, The Legend of Tarzan sure spends a lot of time talking. Even as the movie gets well into the story, Yates screeches things to a halt to let an extremely out of place Samuel L. Jackson tell his life story, a scene that could have easily been cut with no negative impact on the film whatsoever.
Speaking of Jackson, he is downright awful through much of the film, though the fault is as much the script’s than his. Skarsgaard is serviceable in the lead role, looking the part even if the movie doesn't give him many opportunities to flex his muscles. Both Margot Robbie, as Jane, and Christoph Waltz, as the bad guy, are further evidence of the script’s shortcomings. Robbie isn't given much to do, but when she is she is force fed cringe-worthy jokes and insults. Waltz looks confused as to what kind of bad guy he is meant to be playing (even his turn as Blofeld was more fun to watch), and by the time the third act rolls around he has largely resigned.
The Legend of Tarzan needed to be more fun than serious, more entertaining than faux dramatic, and it fails in both regards. The character of Tarzan has always been pretty cheesy, but the film treats him as anything but. And yet, there are many sequences, several involving not-quite-enthralling CGI animals, that are unintentionally cheesy anyway. Furthermore, the film's attempts to be funny often fail, the actors unable to deliver their flat lines with any energy or charisma.
The Legend of Tarzan begins slow, picks up a little in the middle and then gets progressively worse as it swings toward the unimpressive climax. The movie isn't the most dreadful thing ever created, but it's a legend not worth remembering.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.