Review: The Legend of Tarzan

You may be able to find it still showing at a few cinemas but having not made too much of an impact, you may not have caught this one and in fairness it came across as something that wasn’t going to raise a lot of excitement but looks can be deceiving so here’s what you may have missed. This time it’s Alexander Skarsgård trying his hand at vine-swinging with Margot Robbie as his Jane and both Christoph Waltz and Djimon Hounsou as our resident villains, then there’s Samuel L. Jackson who’s along for the ride. Years after Tarzan has returned to London and become the polar opposite of the man whose life began in the Jungle that shaped him, he must now return to his former home, only to find that he has been drawn there as part of a larger plot for Waltz’s Rom to trade Tarzan’s life for diamonds; and begins to do so by kidnapping Jane.

By looks alone it was easy to understand why Skarsgård got the role (there really aren’t that many men who can pull off such long hair) but as it turns out he was more than just muscle giving a version of the character that has not only amazing physical ability but who has been scarred and changed by his experiences. Skarsgård manages to give the character something more than just the king of the jungle, with more depth and showing the reluctance to return to his former life, while at the same time retaining all of the branch running, vine swinging, chest beating, animal calling, wild man behaviour that you want to see. Robbie however presents a much less strong character, which is partly by design of the story, sticking her with the classic damsel in distress role and only giving her few moments of real independence but there is something to be said for her chemistry with Skarsgård. With such a large portion of the story based on the relationship between these two characters, it’s satisfying that they do manage to present a strong connection, it may not be the be all and end all of on screen pairings but it’s more than sufficient. Sadly for Waltz, despite becoming a big name since his Oscar win in 2012, he remains particularly underused in this role, he does get the moments to show his sinister, self-serving agenda and villainous side but it’s disappointingly a rather small presence throughout the film as a whole. Hounsou however creates quite the interesting villain and demonstrates a real dominance in his character while being much more than meets the eye. Jackson’s presence however is slightly more unusual, for a film that can for the most part take a rather dark or serious tone, he offers levity and comic relief and although it is enjoyable to watch for the most part, it can feel out of place with the tone of the film as a whole.

Apart from the characters, visually the film does leave a lot to be desired, with the state of CGI what it is today, this is certainly not an example of the top of the field, it is luckily not of such a low quality to become a distraction but for a film with such an opportunity for some marvellous cinematic moments, it lets itself down. The pace also does begin quite slowly and it takes a while for the story to really kick in but once it does, it definitely has its merits; the anti-slavery, kidnapping and respect for animals portions of the story have something decent to offer. There’s a good sense of building audiences involvement through the revolution style atmosphere of attempting to prevent people being horrendously stolen into slavery. The surprise of the film however is that the real heart of it lies with the animals, the representation of such a majesty of the wild within the jungle is almost moving at points and creates some of the strongest scenes in the film.

There’s a great message clearly with the film of allowing both human and animal alike to live peacefully in their environments without fear of death or enslavement. The story may take some time to get going but once it does it’s worth the wait and while it may not be stunning visually, it still manages to have some great cinematic moments and a very climactic ending. It’s extremely easy to underestimate this one and it hasn’t quite won over most audiences but it is certainly worth the watch.

Verdict: 7.5/10

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