There is a line in The Legend of Tarzan in which the character George Washington Williams (played by Samuel L. Jackson) says something to the effect of “Can we just stop this?”. Any person that dares to swing into theaters to view this visually devoid flick will most definitely have a mutual feeling.
Director, David Yates is best known for blessing us with the last four Harry Potters and soon to be released prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Yates must have been so focused with his Harry Potter flick that he completely forgot he was also the director of The Legend of Tarzan. This may explain the clunky story, lack of exposition, and nauseating camera movements.
Of course, none of this really surprised me. I knew what I was getting into seeing a movie like The Legend of Tarzan. Yet the opening sequence still managed to throw me for a loop. The story opens with words?! Yes. Words. Now I don’t know about you, but when I plop down in the theater to witness a SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER the first thing that comes to mind is action not words. My hope is to power down my brain, sit back and be entertained by non-stop ridiculous action. Reading is not part of the plan.
The few expectations I did have weren’t even met. I was anticipating to witness: People swinging from vines…constantly. Vine swinging would serve as the only mode of transit. I wanted to have my eyes melt from being overwhelmed by a visual feast filled with lions, tigers, bears oh my. I had read that when Yates saw pictures of the location they were interested in filming at, that he rode around a plane with his “nose pressed against the glass”. Unfortunately, the location seemed to play second fiddle in Yates’ rodeo. His cinematographer, Henry Braham must have also left his tripod at home because many of the scenes appeared to be done hand-held style causing one to feel a bit sea sick.
Lastly, I wanted to see Tarzan, (played by Trueblood’s Alexander Skarsgård) running around in the jungle in next to nothing and hear him perform the iconic roar. Some of this happened and when it did it was rather underwhelming.
Even Tarzan’s first appearance on screen was a snore. Tarzan (who actually prefers his given name, John Clayton) is wearing a dapper suit with tails (sigh) drinking tea at a meeting with men whom appear to be government officials. Tarzan has been out of the whole jungle scene for years and is now living high on the hog in England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). During the meeting, George Washington Williams, an American Civil War Vet is attempting to convince Tarzan to go back to the jungle as he believes that Belgian King Leopald II is enslaving the native people of Congo. They would like Tarzan to serve as a sort of diplomat and would like to use his knowledge of the jungle life. Inadvertently, what Tarzan and George don’t realize is that they are walking right into Leon Rom’s (Christoph Waltz) evil plans.
We are first introduced to Leon (an actual historical figure) when he is attempting to annihilate a tribe in hopes to obtain their sacred diamonds. Instead Leon finds his army slaughtered and enters a trade agreement with the tribe leader. If he brings them Tarzan he can have the diamonds. While watching Waltz on screen as Rom I imagined Yates remarking to him, “Hey, remember that Tarantino movie you were in? You know the one about Nazis? Just give me that, that will be perfect, oh yea and put on this white suit. Nothing screams evil like a white suit.”
Honestly, if it were not for the woman sitting behind me remarking “get em’” every time Christoph Waltz or telling Margot Robbie to “sit down” each time they appeared on screen, I most likely would have been sawing logs. Of course Tarzan ends up going back to the jungle with George Washington Williams. And after little convincing takes his wife Jane along for the adventure. Jane eventually is captured, at which point George and Tarzan partner up in order to get her back. This leads to some scenes that attempt to be comedic but truly fall flat. Sam Jackson comes off as a jester traipsing behind Tarzan the clown. Meanwhile Margot Robbie’s Jane appears to be from a modern era which causes this film to lose even more credibility.
In true Hollywood fashion, they refuse to tell a story in a linear fashion. Instead we are taken out of the present story and given an onslaught of flashbacks to reveal our main character’s past. I really wish these old sports would realize there is nothing wrong with just telling a simple story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. The format of using flashbacks often creates a convoluted story leaving the audience confused. After watching Yates’ film, I am still wondering what the “legend” of Tarzan even is?
I’d love to think The Legend of Tarzan would be a lesson learned for Hollywood. Maybe it should have just stayed in development hell where it belonged. I am starting to realize the higher the price tag of a film the higher chance I am going to find it a complete waste of time.
Hollywood, nobody asked for this movie.