Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Movie Review #449: "The Legend of Tarzan" (2016)

Movie"The Legend of Tarzan"
Director: David Yates
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes
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After spending many years living at Greystoke Manor with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie), John Clayton III (Alexander Skarsgård) is drawn back into Africa by a Belgian man named Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). Rom hopes to draw John back to Africa at the request of Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), who wants revenge on him for killing his son. Chief Mbonga will pay Leon a chest of diamonds that Leon plans to use to fund an army of mercenaries to continue Belgium's conquest of the Congo.

Directed by David Yates, "The Legend of Tarzan" is based on the well known Edgar Rice Burroughs character of John Clayton III, aka Tarzan. It also seems to draw some inspiration from the 1984 film "Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes" as this film, like that one, refers to Clayton as the 7th Earl of Greystoke rather than the literary Viscount Greystoke. Alexander Skarsgård fills the titular role in this CGI-infested attempt, though his performance leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, so much is left to be desired that we have begun calling his performance "the acting equivalent of Wonder Bread," just plain and bland and uninteresting. His character is nearly always stoic and lacks any sort of emotional depth whatsoever. He my have the physicality to play such a role, but his acting really needs some work. Joining Skarsgård is Margot Robbie, who plays Tarzan's wife Jane. Despite what appears to be an attempt to sell Jane as a strong female character who can fend for herself, Jane still winds up being the proverbial damsel in distress for 3/4ths of the film. Robbie is fine in this, but her performance, like Skarsgård's, is really nothing to write home about. Filling out the secondary characters in the cast are Christoph Waltz, who fulfills his duties as the typical, typecast and expected crafty villain Leon Rom, as well as Samuel L. Jackson, who plays George Washington Williams, who looks like he stepped out of a GAP clothing store in 2016. He is an American investigating the suspicions of a possible illegal slave trade in the Congo and serves as the comic relief aspect of the movie. Finally, there's Djimon Hounsou, who plays Chief Mbonga, an old rival of Tarzan's looking for revenge, though Hounsou gets limited screen time.

This is definitely an attempt at a big, vacuous, mindless summer blockbuster version of Tarzan, and mostly, they have succeeded with the vacuous part. The plot is super basic with little nuance. The characters are paper thin, and there is an uneven feeling when it comes to its tone. The dialogue is often cheesy with comedic one-liners that very rarely hit their intended mark. One joke that is strongly insinuated to be about priest molestation feels extremely out of place. This is all juxtaposed with Skarsgård's very stoic, ultra serious acting, which may or may not have been intentional, but regardless, is jarring to watch unfold when set against such a mismatched script.  Luckily, 70% of the CGI is good for the most part. Many of the animals look very realistic, though the scenery is the mostly artificial looking, and in a world where "The Jungle Book" has now upped the ante on realistic and lifelike jungle landscapes done digitally, this just doesn't cut it. Much of the film also feels blatantly made for 3D audiences as animals and branches clearly mug at the screen to make things fly towards the audience, and as Tarzan and Williams run across tree branches that stick out just a little too unnaturally to be 2D. One scene in particular, the only one executed well, is when an ostrich in the interacts with Samuel L. Jackson and pecks right at the screen, which made some people in the audience recoil even in a non-3D showing. The last 30% of "The Legend of Tarzan" is where the CGI starts to slip. There are many instances during the climactic final showdown where things look especially fake. It's as if the filmmakers started running out of time and/or money to fully clean up the digital effects of the stampeding wildebeests and swimming crocodiles because they focused so much on getting the gorillas and lions just right.

In the end, this is a version of Tarzan (who is not a popular character, Chris Stuckmann...) corporately designed for mass consumption in the hopes of finding a new franchise to milk for as long as possible. Skip this one. PS: People in the general San Diego area,  STOP CLAPPING AT THE END OF MEDIOCRE MOVIES!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 34%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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