Friday, July 15, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan swings – and falls

movie review

The Legend of Tarzan

Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent, and Christoph Waltz
Director: David Yates
Tagline: Human. Nature.

Hollywood’s penchant for revisiting familiar territories has led to the resurrection of a number of popular franchises, as many well-known characters have made their way back to the big screen. Joining this list is Tarzan, the ape-man created by Edgar Rice Burroughs who has already been the subject of a number of live-action features. His return to cinema this summer finds him revisiting his past in The Legend of Tarzan, an adventure that fails to offer anything new (or even mildly intriguing).

As the film commences, Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) has left Africa behind and settled down in London with his wife, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie). He is now John Clayton III, Lord of Greystoke, a respected member of society and a celebrity because of his life in the jungle. When he is approached by the British government to revisit Congo, John is reluctant to make the trip. His mind is changed by George Washington Williams (Samuel L Jackson) who persuades him to return to Africa and investigate the King of Belgium’s suspected use of slave labour in the region. Accompanied by Williams and the spirited Jane, John returns to his childhood home where he must face a nemesis from his past while trying to unite everyone against a tyrant hell-bent on enslaving a whole country.

The filmmakers can’t resist the urge to also retell the origin tale of the character; his back story is peppered throughout the movie via flashbacks, which further slows down the already sluggish pace of the drama. The plot begs for more action and adventure, but instead has to make do with generic developments and boring dialogues. The motives of the characters don’t always make sense, nor do their decisions.

The portrayals are mostly one-dimensional and unconvincing. The leads lack chemistry and appear to have been chosen primarily for their physical appearances. The script doesn’t give Skarsgård much to do with his role. Robbie’s Jane scoffs at being a damsel in distress but is then put in that very role for much of the film. Christoph Waltz plays the movie’s main villain, Captain Rom, a stereotypical baddie with no redeeming qualities. Jackson operates as a sidekick and comic relief, and while he seems committed to the role, the dull script lets him down.

Director David Yates doesn’t really leave any visible imprint on this film, and just dutifully presents its hackneyed plot, tired themes and trite messages. As a result, The Legend of Tarzan lacks the energy, wit and inventiveness that could have made the movie an enjoyable watch. The film is too serious and staid, and misses the chance to have fun with its silly premise. It’s hard to see why someone green lit this project and thought it would be a good idea to spend $180 million on it. The movie’s existence seems downright mysterious considering how thin its story is.

Ultimately, Tarzan offers nothing innovative or particularly exciting and just leaves you wishing the filmmakers and studios who insist on reviving well-worn characters would at least make the effort to add something new to the franchises they are resurrecting.

Rating: 2 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune - 15th July, 2016 *

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