The Legend of Tarzan is why we can’t have nice things. A film that exists only because of the brand, not because of the story. Everything about it is weightless. It is probably the most cynical film I’ve seen since I’ve started reviewing. Don’t go see it. Still not convinced? Then stick around because I have nothing but time.
The story is that Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) is now living in England with Jane (Margot Robbie). He is lured back to the jungle`by the plot of Leon Rom. He is trying to capture Tarzan and deliver him to Chief Mbonga, Tarzan’s rival from the old days, in exchange for diamonds. Jane is captured and Tarzan must go on a journey to rescue her, while going on a walking tour of random elements of the Tarzan mythos. So it’s a cookie cutter plot that’s broken up by random flashbacks to Tarzan’s origin that fit like a square peg into a solid brick wall. But as I’ve said repeatedly a simple plot can allow for experimentation or a deep thematic discussion. The Legend of Tarzan has neither. Instead it has nothing.
From the plot description you can gather that there is a clash between civilization and the jungle like a most Tarzan stories but nothing is done with it. There’s talk of slavery and genocide but they are concepts that are really only tangentially connected to the plot of the film. If you asked me what this film was about I’d just have to shrug my shoulders. It’s all surface and no depth. Much like the characters. I’m fairly sure that no character goes on a journey. Oh they have a starting position and an end position (well Tarzan and Jane do anyway) but there is absolutely nothing in the middle to suggest that there is a change occurring. Instead we get the walking tour of elements of the Tarzan mythos and an extremely unnecessary subplot about Jane’s miscarriage. Yep, Jane has a miscarriage. Don’t worry though by the end of the movie Tarzan and Jane move to the Congo and can have babies again. What the fuck does that have to do with any of this?! Are they saying England gave her a miscarriage? Or is it modern Western society in general gave her a miscarriage? Is the only way to avoid having a miscarriage living in the Congo? I’ve said ‘miscarriage’ more than I imagined I would in this review of a Tarzan movie and I resent that. It’s completely meaningless.
Aside from having no substance in the plot or characters, the action is entirely weightless as well. This has to be the worst combination of direction and sound design ever to make a fucking wildebeest stampede have all the impact of spilling beans on the floor. Samuel L. Jackson shoots up a boat with a Gatling gun and it’s weightless. How does that even happen? Every fight in this movie has the same problem and I figured out what caused it, you know aside from the lazy direction and terrible sound design. It’s the lack of reaction to it. When characters get hit I don’t hear them scream in pain. They just flop. This problem extends to the actors as well. Jane at one point thinks Tarzan is dead and doesn’t shed a tear. A father figure dies and no one reacts. It’s astonishing how this level of apathy can exist in a film made by Warner Brothers, one of the biggest studios in the world- oh wait they made Man of Steel. Story checks out, continue.
I think what sums up what a total failure this movie is, is how they fuck up the most basic of all the Tarzan tropes. The yell. We hear Tarzan yell but we never see him do it. That is a scene that is god damn gift-wrapped for them and they still fuck it up. But they probably thought it might come too close to resembling a character moment and thought better of it.
The Legend of Tarzan is hollow. Plain and simple. It is a film made because of Tarzan’s place in popular culture, without any attempt to be anything more. I strongly urge you not to go see it.
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