The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Won't make viewers go ape

Director: David Yates
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou

When a character is adapted multiple times over, there's often a challenge in how to approach the material. One can play it safe and deliver a take familiar to the other adaptations, or one can find a new way to embark upon delivering the character to screen. It's wonderful that Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer's screenplay find a unique and intriguing way to tackle the character, but the presentation lacks substantial material to back up the concept.

Leaving behind his life in Africa as Tarzan, John Clayton III (Alexander Skarsgård) has returned to London to take up his ancestral home. He's asked by George Washington Wallace (Samuel L. Jackson) to return with him to the Congo, in an effort to uncover a slavery plot by Belgian King Leopold. With Clayton's wife, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), in tow, the three make their trip, where they encounter Leopold's envoy, Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz). With Rom ready to put plan into action, and with Jane as his hostage, Clayton must rise up and become the man he once was: Tarzan.

It's a rather interesting proposition, as having the character back in England, being called to what he once was despite leaving behind his former life, opens up the story telling possibilities. The problem is how limited things are, merely delivering a generic tale that doesn't get into the characters mindset outside the jungle. We're never given a chance to see how Tarzan feels about his life in England or his return, he merely accepts he has to return to his roots, as viewers apparently should also.

It also feels rather jarring how the Lord of the Apes made the journey from barely speaking human to becoming a well spoken gentleman. In fact, the script seems more interested in our lead accidentally committing a form of sexual harassment and making a bestiality gag, for the purpose of "laughs". Then there's the lifeless visuals, which are met by glaring effects which take one out of the picture.

Perhaps things would have been helped if Alexander Skarsgård put more acting talent into the role, as opposed to just fulfilling the physicality. His performance comes off rather limited, which is a contrast to Samuel L Jackson, who's entertaining as he ventures over the top. One's unsure to laugh or despair at the irony, as Margot Robbie claims to not be a damsel, despite her purpose being to be saved by her husband from the villain (lifelessly played by Christoph Waltz).

David Yates' take on the Edgar Rice Burroughs character can be summed up simply: intriguing ideas, meet poor execution. The Legend of Tarzan brings little more than decent skeletons of ideas, and an impressive six-pack.

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