In The Legend of Tarzan, Jane (Margot Robbie) and John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard), aka Tarzan, return to the jungle years after Tarzan has acclimated to high class civilized life. The story of their relationship is told in flashbacks, where Tarzan is seen as a boy raised by apes and Jane as the daughter of an American teacher.
These flashbacks are shot with little care. Motion is blurred. Camera angles are distorted and displeasing to the eye. The color palette is drab and cold.
When slave traders led by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) steal Jane away, Tarzan ventures to save her. The narrative is simple, and thus not the crux of entertainment value to be found in this film. What the film is meant to provide instead is visual spectacle, but this too is marred by simplicity, as well as a mere unappealing aesthetic.
Camera work makes action sequences impossible to fully enjoy, even if the choreography may be passable. The CG work is not bad, but when compared to the earlier 2016 release of The Jungle Book, it is hard for the effects here to live up.
The acting is somewhat bland. This may be due to the script, which is heavy handed and trying to take itself far more seriously than a Tarzan movie should be. The characters, too, are thin and not charismatic.
Sarsgard and Robbie serve the lead roles justice, although again the script waters down the relationship their characters have. The characters’ relationship to the setting, which should be a deeply entrenched one, also does not come across.
Christoph Waltz, who has created a bankable career out of playing gleefully sadistic villains, plays such a character again here with nothing new brought to the archetypal role. He still provides his usual good performance, but it is the repetition of his character choices that is getting stale, leaving much to be desired out of the antagonist role here.
Samuel L. Jackson is perhaps the most redeeming performance as the sidekick character. He brings the best acting chops and charisma to the cast, though his talent could be better used elsewhere (his 2016 film choices proving to be missteps). Either way, the levity his character brings to the proceedings is refreshing in comparison to the gritty forefront that this film puts forth.
What The Legend of Tarzan boils down to is a lack of substance. The narrative is not compelling enough. The visuals are not stunning enough to make up for that narrative. The acting may be all right, but that isn’t saying much when everything surrounding it causes one to beg for something more.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)