FlixChatter Review: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Did you that if you type ‘Tarzan’ on IMDb, there’d be about 200 titles popped up since 1918 all the way to 2016. So yeah, you could say that Edgar Rice Burroughs’ titular character has been adapted to death in various formats. But hey, Hollywood loves to recycle stuff over and over, and this one promises to make the Lord of the Jungle to 21st Century audiences.

What I do like about this one is how the story isn’t told in a linear way. By the time the film opens, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) has been acclimated to life in London as John Clayton III aka Lord Greystoke of Greystoke Manor, with Jane (Margot Robbie) as his wife. I’m glad this isn’t an origin story, though the film did reveal his backstory in flashbacks. In fact, director David Yates (known for his Harry Potter movies) use of flashbacks constantly throughout, showing us how he met Jane and so forth.
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Of course soon Tarzan ends up in Congo again, at the request of Belgium’s King Leopold II to visit & report on Belgian’s development on Congo. He’s reluctant at first, but American attaché George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) persuaded him to do so, suspecting of slavery of the Congolese people. There he crosses path with Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) who’s in Congo on a rich minerals expedition for the Belgian king. It would’ve been a huge issue if it weren’t for the fact that Rom has been promised diamonds by the tribal leader Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou, typecast once again) in exchange for Tarzan.
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I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed the adventure ride with Tarzan, with Jackson being the comic relief throughout. I gotta say that without Jackson’s hilarious antics, I might not have enjoyed this movie as much as I did, because the film tends to take itself far too seriously. On top of that, Skarsgård plays his character in such a surly, dour manner that practically sucked the fun out of the whole thing. There’s a difference between Byronically-brooding and dull, and he definitely fits more with the latter. I mentioned on Twitter before the movie started that it’d take more than a 12-pack abs to make his character intriguing. Well, it seems that Skarsgård’s too busy working out and dieting rigorously that he forgot to infuse his role with any kind of personality, let alone charm. Oh btw, those who couldn’t wait to see Tarzan’s bare torso would be pretty disappointed that he didn’t take of his shirt until about halfway point. I should mention too that Skarsgård reminds me a lot of Sam Heughan who plays Jamie in Starz’s Outlander at times that it distracted me a bit.

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Robbie did her best with what she’s given. Her Jane isn’t quite a damsel-in-distress, though there’s still the obligatory rescue when she’s held hostage by Rom. As for Waltz, well he’s better here than in Spectre, but his mustache-twirling villain-y is becoming more of a tiresome schtick. It seems his fun baddie performance a la Hans Landa is long behind him, what a pity.

There’s also the issue with the whole colonialism and slavery that critics think are tone deaf. Now, I actually think the filmmaker/writers strived to make Tarzan more than ‘another white savior’. Jackson’s character is based on a respected real life African American minister/soldier/lawyer/writer and he’s got a major role here that includes saving Tarzan’s life. Even the moments where Tarzan returns the favor is downplayed a bit and that bit when Williams climbs onto his back as he swings down from a tree vine is pretty hilarious. I didn’t expect this Tarzan movie to be some sort of buddy comedy but at times that’s how it played out, which doesn’t always work but Jackson is always a hoot. There is also a quiet moment between Williams and Tarzan when Williams reflects on his past that I think is quite memorable. There are moments that tugged at my heartstrings too, as Tarzan and Jane seem to genuinely care for the Congolese residents, both the people and animals of the jungle.

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Having just seen The Jungle Book, the cinematography here doesn’t quite match that one, and at times it appears way too dark and gloomy. But there are some beautiful shots and some of the action sequences are pretty fun to watch. The soundtrack byRupert Gregson-Williams was pretty rousing at times too, though now I could barely remember it. Somehow every time I hear the word Tarzan I always think of Phil Collins’ fabulous song You’ll Be in My Heart from the animated Disney version.

This may sound like a backhanded compliment but given my low expectation coming into this, I’m not disappointed. I guess I wasn’t expecting something truly epic and it wasn’t, but as far as Summer popcorn flick go, it offers an adequate escapist good time.

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Have you seen ‘The Legend of Tarzan’? Well, what did you think?

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32 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

  1. Just posted a few thoughts on this myself. It seems like you and I had more or less the same reaction. You may have liked it a tad more than me. It is definitely a well made movie but I found it lacking in several areas. While I was entertained enough throughout I did find much of it underwhelming. I totally agree about the criticisms from critics. I truly believe some critics look for ways to complain and accuse movies of being insensitive to certain subjects. As you mention, the filmmakers try to show a Tarzan as more than a ‘white savior’. There is a deeper relationship there. And they do try to address issues like genocide, slavery, etc.

    1. Hi Keith! I’ll check out your review so we can compare notes. I was debating whether to give this 2.5 or 3 but ended up being a bit more generous as I did enjoy it more than I thought I did. It’s definitely not a great film so yeah, a bit underwhelming esp compared to how good The Jungle Book was. Critics just like complain about everything, they love making mountain out a mole hill. I feel that Tarzan and Jane truly care for the Congolese, so it didn’t feel forced to me. The slavery thing seems to fit the plot of Rom’s greed to get the diamonds, so naturally he doesn’t care about people, whatever race they are.

  2. I don’t get Hollywood obsession with Tarzen either, the character’s just not that intriguing to me but like you said, they love to recycle the same product over and over.

    You know I had no idea that Sam Jackson was even in this movie until I saw him in a TV spot the other day but then again he seems to be in every movie so I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s in this one. Ha ha. I think Christoph Waltz needs to fire his agents, he’s being typecast as the go to villain actor now. He has so much range as an actor so either he needs to turn down this kind of roles or just keep cashing in those big paychecks.

    Personally I don’t have any interest in this film, in fact I’ve never been interest in any of the Tarzen adaptations.

    1. Ahah clearly you don’t care for Tarzan that you call him Tarzen 😉 I didn’t know about Sam Jackson either so that was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t even know his character was based on a real historical person. He’s really funny here, so that helps make it enjoyable.

      Watlz has become so boring, his performance has become a schtick. I think he’s just cashing in, which is fine but he doesn’t seem to know how to return to real acting.

      1. Ha ha yes I didn’t realized I spelled his name wrong but I don’t care, he’s so boring to me!

        I’m hoping Watlz would take a lesson from Alan Rickman’s career and start accepting other roles than just doing big budget pictures and be the villain. If you remember, after Die Hard, Rickman was the go to guy for a villain but he turned down quite a few villain roles and had a very good career until his death.

        1. He..he.. that’s ok, it made me laugh 🙂 Well I wouldn’t equate Waltz w/ Rickman, I mean he’s a great actor but Rickman is something else… he’s got so much screen presence that even when he’s playing a ridiculous villain, he’s still so watchable. Yep, I like the fact that Rickman didn’t go for an easy paycheck which Waltz clearly does, which makes me respect the late actor even more.

  3. After reading your review, this movie’s story goes in a different direction than I expected which is not a bad thing. But it’s too bad about Skarsgard’s take on Tarzan because in other roles I’ve seen him in he’s able to bring some charisma. I’ll check out Jungle Book first over this. Good review Ruth!

    1. Hi Eddie, I like the non-linear storytelling style of this one. Overall it’s entertaining, just not an epic adventure it tries to be. I honestly have only seen 2 things of Skarsgard and wasn’t all that impressed, but that’s good that he is charismatic in others.

  4. Nope, not a movie I will be rushing out to see. The biggest factor for watching this for me would have been Skarsgård. For science. Pity to hear he didn’t bring any sass to the table or anything.

    1. He..he… I know True Blood fans will be drawn to see Skarsgård, Zoë, but he’s kinda boring here. I guess I don’t fancy him so even with his extremely physique he doesn’t do anything for me. I kept wishing to see more of Samuel L Jackson as he’s a lot of fun!

    1. Hi Vern, ahah well I didn’t exactly love this one. As I mentioned in the final paragraph, I had such a low expectations so I wasn’t disappointed. I think w/ Jackson, if you like his style you’d be more inclined to like his performance. I thought he was hilarious. Yep, agreed about Robie & Skarsgård had zero chemistry, which is incredible when you think about it considering how pretty they both are.

  5. This is the first even remotely positive review that I’ve read and I’m pleasantly surprised to hear your take on Samuel L Jackson’s contribution. You’ve got me almost wanting to see it now. I am getting tired of Christoph Waltz in these types of roles though.

    1. Ahah, well it’s somewhat positive as 3/5 is an average movie really. I really did enjoy Sam Jackson here though, so yeah definitely a pleasant surprise for me. Waltz on the other hand is so boring, and this Tarzan is ripped but dull.

  6. Nice review! I’m not surprised that it held your attention; my dad actually said he enjoyed it a lot too. However, he lost all credibility as a movie-goer when he said, “I liked it more than The Force Awakens!” Like…bye, dad.

    1. Mwahahaha! Well I’m not in love w/ Force Awakens but it’s certainly better than this one. For one, Daisy Ridley actually looks um, awake and vivacious, whilst this Tarzan mopes around a lot w/ his puppy dog eyes.

  7. I like your review 🙂

    I just saw it yesterday and you have mentioned everything I wanted to say in my review (if I ever make a long review, I only do very short review now) . I also give it 3 stars 😉

    I never saw the one playing Tarzan before, even though the acting was a bit off but I kinda enjoy looking at him (tho I was watching it with my husband, but he doesn’t mind)

    1. Hey Nov! Well glad we see eye to eye about this movie. Though this Tarzan does absolutely nothing for me, I don’t find him sexy at all despite his amazing physique. Same w/ Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, they’re just nice to look at while in the movie, but that’s it. My crushes don’t have the perfect bodies, but they have so much more to make up for it! 😉

  8. I enjoyed the film more than you did, but you make good points. I suppose Tarzan didn’t have much character to him, but I liked the idea of his reluctance to return to his old life.

    1. Hi Ian! I actually enjoyed it more than I thought, but still it’s not a great movie. There are things that work fine, but overall it’s pretty lackluster.

    1. It’s not stellar by any means but it’s actually not as horrible as I predicted. And trust me, I wasn’t anticipating this at all. Sam Jackson is a hoot here though, he made this enjoyable!

  9. I wasn’t really planning on watching this, but my kids saw this with my mom last week and loved it (kids, eh?) and your review doesn’t sound so bad either, so my curiosity is somewhat piqued now. 🙂

    1. How old are your kids? I don’t think this movie is terrible, and I actually enjoyed it more than I thought. Compared to Jungle Book though, that one is a heck of a lot better and more emotionally-resonant. They also created a much more seamless CGI animals than this one.

        1. Ah ok, I think the Tarzan story is geared more for adults, and 12+ kids would appreciate it more. The Jungle Book is more for younger viewers though there are darker moments. Glad you love that one, I was very impressed w/ it, and the visuals are amazing!

  10. Pingback: 13 Movies-Series I watched Lately | Polychrome Interest

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