This weekend I had a chance to see Warner Bros’ The Legend of Tarzan and I wanted to provide a review. Before I share my thoughts, check out the following trailer if you haven’t already.
We all are somewhat familiar with the original story of Tarzan: A family is stranded in an African jungle with a newborn baby boy, the parents die, the newborn is raised by a family of apes and given the name Tarzan. Later, Tarzan meets Jane Porter, they fall in love and live happily ever after. Pretty simple, right?
Well, this story takes place roughly 10 years after Tarzan/John Clayton III (Skarsgård) and Jane (Robbie) have left the African Congo and have returned back to England. The Belgian government is on the verge of bankruptcy due to the building of a national railroad as a result of the Berlin Conference. So King Leopold II of Belgium decides to pursue the riches of the African Congo to pay off the debt, but after the initial voyage to extract those riches go south, Tarzan is asked to go back to Africa and report on the development of the Congo. However, he is oblivious to the fact that it is really a trap to trade him for collateral in exchange for diamonds. The villain of the story, Captain Léon Rom (Waltz), is working with Tarzan’s nemesis, Chief Mbonga (Hounsou), on the exchange and a good solid hour of action sequences occur as a result. Throw in your trusty sidekick/comic relief, George Washington Williams (Jackson), and all is complete in this quintessential action flick.
I enjoyed this film to an extent. Like the rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, the nostalgia and action sequences were the saving graces for this film. But I could’ve saved my theater and popcorn money and waited for the Redbox edition. First of all, Tarzan was a little too unbelievable for my taste. There were times during the movie where I didn’t know if I was watching The Legend of Tarzan or The Avengers.
I’m not going spoil any scenes but there were several action sequences that I had to roll my eyes on. Secondly, the White Savior trope is beyond played out at this point: white hero saves an African village from enslavement and sudden death, shocker. Matthew McConaughey is already doing a great job this summer with his film (trope) Free State of Jones, so can we please have a break? At least until the fall, maybe? And don’t get me started on Samuel L. Jackson’s joke of a character. There was nothing about his portrayal of George Washington Williams that the audience was supposed to take seriously, which is sad because Williams was a very prominent figure in African American history. The only character who wasn’t a disappointment was Margot Robbie’s Jane because she was anything but a “damsel in distress.” She fought back throughout the entire film and her punches actually looked believable.
The CGI-infused jungle, comic book action sequences, and Walt Disney nostalgia saved this film from being a total flop. The solid plot and cinematography were also an advantage, so I’ll give it a final grade of C+.
Until Next Time…