Review: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 29 June 2016



THE LEGEND OF TARZAN centres on John Clayton III (Alexander Skarsgard), a man formerly known as Tarzan who has left his past behind and now living a noble life with his beloved wife, Jane (Margot Robbie). When he is invited by Belgium's King Leopold to return to Congo as a trade emissary of Parliament, little does he know that he soon entangled in a plot where Jane ends up being captured by a corrupted envoy, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz).

REVIEW: From the silent black-and-white movie of TARZAN AND THE APES in 1918 to the contemporary era by the likes of GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES (1984) and the hugely popular Disney animated feature of TARZAN (1999), the story about the king of the jungle has seen various cinematic reincarnations throughout the decades. With the exception of the 3D computer-generated feature of TARZAN in 2013, the last time we get to see a live-action version was the 1998 cinematic debacle of TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY starring Casper Van Dien and Jane March.

Now, almost 20 years later, Warner Bros. took a huge gamble for bringing back the long-forgotten Tarzan story to the big screen. Reportedly cost at an astounding US$180 million (which makes it the most expensive Tarzan movie ever made in the Hollywood history), the big-budget revival seems to be in the good hands of David Yates. After all, he is the director who brought fortune to the studio after helming the last four HARRY POTTER movies.

Unfortunately, no amount of budget thrown on the screen is going to make much difference if the movie itself fails to impress in both story and characters department. Make no mistake, I do enjoy the fact that THE LEGEND OF TARZAN eschews the traditional storytelling method by not delving deep into the origin and only told within a glimpse of numerous flashback scenes. This is actually fine by me if Yates employ the flashback technique effectively to tell a backstory as long as it doesn't disrupt or drag the flow of the overall storyline. Too bad the flashback scenes that shown on and off throughout the movie feels ponderous. It doesn't help either when Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer's screenplay that tries to mesh drama, romance and adventure altogether into an epic proportion doesn't work out the way they wanted them to be. Instead, just about everything here feels strangely anticlimactic and lacks a sense of epic grandeur promised earlier in the trailers. Sure, Henry Braham does his best utilising various camera techniques from the sweeping panoramic angle to dolly shots and swooping camerawork often found in this kind of movie. But rather than feeling immersive by these shots, they are all oddly disconnected.

The action, in the meantime, is either poorly edited or shot in annoying tight close-ups to the point it's hard to enjoy Tarzan's acrobatic moves as well as his physical flexibility. Except for the brief scene where a herd of buffalos charging through the colonial palace, the action is mostly unimaginative and almost devoid of excitement. Even the scene where Tarzan battles against his Mangani brother, Akut barely raises a pulse.

As for the cast, Alexander Skarsgard (of TV's True Blood) does look the part playing the titular character, especially with his tall and well-sculpted muscular physique. But good physicality alone isn't enough to overcome the fact his expressive acting method lacks the heart and soul of a conflicted hero that Yates originally envisioned him to be. As Jane, it's a breath of fresh air that her Jane character isn't the usual damsel-in-distress often seen in a Tarzan movie. Instead, Robbie's rendition of Jane in this movie is a feisty and independent individual. The only gripe about her is that Yates doesn't give her much room to expand her character. Christoph Waltz, who is no stranger to portraying a ruthless and despicable character, seems like an obvious fit to play Leon Rom. But instead of a potentially worthwhile antagonist, Waltz looks as if he is sleepwalking throughout his role where his character is hardly intimidating enough. Samuel L. Jackson provides some decent comic relief (such as the scene where he encounters Akut) as the real-life Civil War veteran, George Washington Williams. Suffice to say, it's the same old Samuel L. Jackson that most of us grown accustomed to.

The special effects, ranging from the CGI animals to the vast jungle of Congo, are not as breathtaking as I expected but still adequate enough on the screen.

The most expensive Tarzan movie ever made ends up as one of the most mundane and uneventful event movies ever seen in a long while.

* This review is written courtesy from Warner Bros Malaysia IMAX press screening *

No comments: