Review: ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is Not Legendary Viewing

It’s not an altogether unfamiliar experience to come out of a film thinking “what the hell did I just watch?” That’s largely the realm of film festival or arthouse selections, though, or the result of external factors – illness, fatigue, poor dietary decisions. Not so often does it apply to presumptive blockbusters, of which The Legend of Tarzan most assuredly is one, while at the same time being a confusing pile of sight and sound.

The film wisely foregoes being a simple origin story (excepting extensive flashbacks), as well as dodging modern reinterpretation (set towards the end of the 19th century, where distant corners of the world still enjoyed mystery – and the presence of endangered species). In fact, it’s largely a chase pic, though Mad Max: Fury Road this ain’t.

There’s not much storytelling meat on Tarzan’s bones. Just on Alexander Skarsgård’s torso. And arms. And etc. Hopefully that will be enough for some.

Aside from leering at Tarzan’s physique, there’s enjoyment to be found in the supporting performances around him, but as with everything about the film, this is tempered with problems. Samuel L. Jackson crackles as his sidekick, providing excellent comic relief and dramatic gravitas – but nothing ends up being made of his African-American Civil War veteran status.

Likewise, Margot Robbie’s a fine enough Jane, but spends most of her time in damsel-in-distress mode. By the time she joins enamoured villain (and her kidnapper) Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) for dinner, I found myself wondering if nothing had really changed for female love interests in the 25 years since Marion and Belloq (with whom Rom may even share a hatmaker) had a similar drink together in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Confusing action sequences, ropy CGI animals and landscapes further hinder proceedings, even while director David Yates shows he has a few nifty stylistic ideas. Lacking in spectacle overall, light on adventure, and weakly written, it’s hard to see how we’re supposed to consider this legendary viewing.

‘The Legend of Tarzan’ Movie Times | 3D Movie Times