I am not a big Tarzan fan even though there are those who live by it. The Disney animated movie released when I was practically a kid. It was adorable and that’s the fondest memory that I have with the character. There have been multiple films with the character and they have all hit their niche audiences. So when this film’s trailers aired I couldn’t help but feel that this was one of those unnecessary remakes that we have had in abundance over the last year or so (read Point Break!). I had a very negative vibe about it and felt that it would be a gigantic bore. It was also the reason that kept me away from it for so long. Now having finally watched it, I have to say that I had a very bitter sweet time with this film.
Tarzan is no longer in the jungle. He is a lord in England and is happily married to Jane. King Leopold of Belgium is nearing bankruptcy in his expedition of Congo and sends his top henchman Leon Rom in search of a treasure that is under the clasps of a marauding tribe. He finds the treasure but his army is annihilated. The leader of the tribe promises him the diamonds in exchange for Tarzan with whom he has an old score to settle. Rom arranges for Tarzan to be invited to Congo on a goodwill mission as Jane tags along. Little does he know that he is walking into an ambush. Jane is kidnapped by Rom to lure Tarzan into a trap and he obliges by coming after Rom with all his human abilities and animal instincts.
The film is visually stunning. After Jungle Book, the spirit of the forest and the animals in it are captured in a bravura fashion here. The action sequences between Tarzan and the different forces of nature are well filmed. They are rather short but extremely good to look at. I just loved the sequence where he fights his half-brother Akuta, a gigantic gorilla, for the right of passage through his territory. There is a great hand to hand combat sequence towards the end and also some well-choreographed slinging through the forest. The 3D comes into play here and elevates the sequences by adding a much needed depth of field and a reference to the relative height.
Alexander Skarsgård is good as Tarzan. He has the physicality to sell the basic idea of Tarzan and you don’t doubt his essay. However, he has a very limited range and thankfully his acting skills are not stretched. Samuel L. Jackson has a rather long role for a sidekick and he seems to be the only person having some fun with his role. There is a sequence wherein he has to follows instructions to save himself from a gorilla. This sequence went in a way I wasn’t expecting it to. Margot Robbie is pretty and she can act. Her range of roles have been growing consistently and here too she is good. It’s just that her character has nothing more to do than be a damsel in distress. Christoph Waltz for me was a bore for the first time. Here is a role that could have been done by anyone and is laced with every cliche associated with a traditional baddie. He shouldn’t have picked it.
The Legend of Tarzan is a film which feels very un-tarzan-like for very many reasons. To start with, the film is tedious, slow and is extremely talky. The action is limited and it is awfully serious. A film like this builds up for a grand moment or two or as many as possible but here there are none. As Tarzan was inching towards Jane, I sat waiting for that bravura moment where he would actually come into his animal self and show some flair but unfortunately that never happens. Even the climax is a tapered out affair with a stampede that felt awfully fake. Tarzan’s wildness is suppressed and the only times we get a glimpse of it are during the flashback sequences. The romance between Jane and Tarzan sometimes feels very cheesy and feels almost like a different film.
The talkativeness of the narrative plays a spoilt sport. We don’t watch Tarzan to see people talk. We want action. We want fun and while the serious tone may have worked well in patches and overt feeling of grit really mars the fond memories and what we expect from the story in the first place. The film gets tedious too soon and I couldn’t help but kept checking my watch. David Yates directed some of the better Harry Potter films but here he hasn’t exactly struck gold. The material was there but the execution lacked merit. I was disappointed by this film primarily because it bored me at many junctures. That’s something unacceptable from a Tarzan film.
Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)