Legend of Tarzan Doesn't Have That Swing

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Legend of Tarzan Blu-ray

Tarzan. There are so few legends sprung up from American literature that are so rich with potential as the story of John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, orphaned infant raised by apes in the jungles of Africa. And there are so few moviegoers who really know much beyond the Ron Ely and Johnny Weissmuller films of bygone days. Not many know the Tarzan who learned to read English from a primer but speak French from a jungle explorer.

I'll give Director David Yates and his writers this credit -- they at least tried to put as much of the Edgar Rice Burroughs character as they could into THE LEGEND OF TARZAN -- and they couldn't have cast a better Tarzan than TRUE BLOOD's Alexander Skarsgård for sheer rippling abs combined with a gentle voice.

I'll also give credit for this version of Tarzan as a fallible one. He gets his butt kicked when he goes toe-to-toe with a gorilla. He gets captured by mere men when he is overwhelmed by numbers. And he admits to mistakes in his past when confronted with them.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN begins with John Clayton and his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) already returned from Africa and living in London. By royal invitation, John is asked to return to Africa. However, he learns from a visiting American and Civil War veteran, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), that the whole thing involves using slave labor to fund a bankrupt King Leopold. Leopold's agent, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) has found a legendary cache of diamonds, to which he can have access if the region's protector, Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) is given the thing he desires most: Tarzan.

The rest of the film revolves around the twin plots of wily Jane always attempting to escape her captor, Rom, while Tarzan and George hoof it across the Congo. Along the way, Tarzan encounters a troop of gorillas led by his 'brother', whom he has to fight, a pride of lions that he used to know and greets, and a herd elephants he used to know and gets to say hello to. The only apparent reason for these meetings in the film seems to have been to force me to look up the proper collective nouns for each of them, as they don't serve any other purpose except to maybe show that Africa was really a much smaller neighborhood than one might expect for a continent. The few times his calls to animals result in action are during the film's climax, the biggest of which already made the trailers. George's character is there to provide banter and occasional marksmanship, but mostly seems to be there to show the reluctance a normal human would feel when having to follow someone of Tarzan's caliber through unbelievable actions.

The lush scenery and intense action sequences, however, simply don't elevate the film from its plodding pace. Even at slightly less than 2 hours, it just felt longer, with more pontificating than there was action. Ultimately, it's a popcorn-and-coffee flick: light fun but requiring a kick to stay awake through it.

Grade: 
3.0 / 5.0