Tarzan has been remade or re-imagined more times than “Spiderman” but now has the benefit of state of the art effects and Samuel L Jackson, both of which should help the cause.
This story has been told many times before but for the uninitiated the story is based largely on Edgar Rice Burroughs tales of a baby orphaned in the jungle, brought up by Apes to become, “Tarzan Lord of the Jungle”, cue Tarzan call that cannot be replicated in print.
Not only Tarzan but a English gentleman “Lord Greystoke” (Alexander Skarsgård) as well. So the physique of a man of the jungle (Gym?), yet with the refinement of an English country gentleman. What woman could possibly resist, not “Jane” (Margot Robbie) for sure. Fortunately we are spared “Me Tarzan, You Jane” dialogue but most other clichés are plundered.
Tarzan is joined by “George Washington Williams” (Samuel L. Jackson), to add a dash of Americana to the mix. Bad guy duties fall to everyones European moustache twirler du jour “Leon Rom” (Christoph Waltz), who represses the natives and plunders for financial game on behalf of his master King Leopold of Belgium.
The circa 1800 story follows the usual environment and damsel in peril tropes but has been updated from the original stories to reflect a more 21st century outlook. The effects are superb, creating a mostly realistic jungle setting, augmented with some real life location shooting.
Skarsgard is as chiselled as anyone could want and Robbie as alluring as ever but does get to kick some occasional butt, certainly pushing against the “I’m waiting to be saved by a man” theme in so many of these stories.
Jackson adds his usual gravitas and injects some much needed humour to puncture the pomposity but again, Waltz really fails to capitalise on his reputation. This feels one note and together with his low wattage turn in “Spectre”, does begin to question his acting range.
This represents another plundering of movie history back catalogue. With the new technology on offer, this presents film-makers opportunities for stories to be re-told with relative ease and safety, surrounded by green screens. Director David Yates (of Harry Potter fame) has at least attempted to inject modern day sensibilities and context into the story, weaving in a more balanced approach to the Tarzan/Jane relationship, which is to be commended in a big budget film.
Of course this may go over the target market’s head but hopefully this does permeate into the movie going expectations. After all we now have female heroes in two new Star Wars films and “Wonder Woman” just around the corner.
Overall fun while it lasts, like so many big budget films, not as good as it could have been given the cast and production values on offer.
A middling effort that may satisfy those new to the story but unlikely to set the world on fire, reflected by a $356M return on a massive $180m outlay.