THE LEGEND OF TARZAN
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Dimon Hounsou and Christoph Waltz
Screenplay by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer
Directed by David Yates
Out of Four
For months, it's seemed that the buzz on The Legend of Tarzan was based almost entirely around puzzlement as to who exactly wanted a new Tarzan movie. The answer, actually, is the two of us. When we were kids we'd watch the old Johnny Weismuller films at our Grandma's house, and when characters like Superman, Flash Gordon, etc, starred getting new treatments in the late 70's and early 80's, we were very upset that when Tarzan returned to the big screen it was for a Bo Derek nudie movie (Tarzan, The Ape Man) we couldn't even see (not that we wanted to; We were seven years old and wanted Tarzan to swing from trees and wrestle gorillas. We didn't really care what Jane did or what she wasn't wearing when she did it.). When another live action take did come along a few years later, it was Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, which is actually quite a good film, but not exactly the big budget B-jungle adventure movie we wanted. The 1999 Disney movie, good as it was, was still its own animal, and the less said about the low budget 1998 Casper Van Dien vehicle Tarzan and the Lost City, the better. So our inner kids have been waiting for Tarzan to get the Superman: The Movie treatment for about 35 years.
Skarsgård's stoic personality and strong physicality working very well for the title character, and Jackson infusing the proceedings with a welcome sense of charisma and humor. As Jane, Robbie may seem a bit out of place at times, but she showcases the presence and star quality that's made her a current hot commodity in Hollywood, even if the script's treatment of the character sometimes over does the sarcasm and spunk in an attempt to avoid making Jane too much of a helpless damsel in distress. Waltz, as he was in Spectre, is a suitable villain, but nothing special. He seems to be settling in to a role as the new Alan Rickman but unfortunately, so far his action movie villain roles are not particularly memorable. Hounsou, who pretty much had to be in this movie, provides a surprising level of emotion to a small and simple role (though why his character speaks perfect English is a major logic lapse.) .
The use of historical figures and settings in a silly entertainment film like this can be controversial, and at the screening we attended some critics were either expressing concern that it will misinform people or dismissing the movie outright because of it. These are genuine concerns, but for us, this was movie was exactly the reason why our encyclopedia collection was so beloved as children. Movies made us interested in history, and we looked up the real stories and studied them. In the internet age, you can find out the truth on the phone exiting the theater, and frankly, those who aren't interested enough to do so aren't likely to be influenced much by the history depicted anyway.
All in all, in a summer where too many of the action blockbusters have underwhelmed, The Legend of Tarzan is a welcome bit of escapist fun. It's far from a perfect movie but it's a satisfying summer adventure.
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