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Review: The Legend of Tarzan
It is common practice as of late to look at beloved literary heroes and turn their franchise into a film spawning multiple films and that is just what they have done here yet again with The Legend of Tarzan. However, this time around they have gone and made it a dark and moody film that attempts to swing for the fences. Tarzan's tone is the new fad going around in Hollywood, making a dark and gritty tale but in this case it actually works pretty well with the character. Tarzan misses it's mark in some places, but luckily it does just enough right to make it a watchable film. It strongly benefits from a capable director who handles big spectacle movies such as David Yates and it has a very talented cast headlined by Christoph Waltz and Margot Robbie.
The plot follows Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) and his wife, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie), who had left behind Africa and settled down in London where Tarzan has abandoned his name while taking up his birth name and ancestral family residence. Tarzan is now known as John Clayton and in his eight years away from the jungle his story has become legendary among the Victorian public although he wants nothing to do with his past. However, John and Jane are thrust back into their old home when a man named George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) reveals to John that his services are needed in Africa as he believes that the Belgians are enslaving Congolese population. Meanwhile, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) had been sent to the Congo in order to mine a special diamond found in the forest that will help the Belgian government get out of bankruptcy.
The Legend of Tarzan is a solid movie but lacks in it's execution on the bigger themes that it is trying to hit on. The biggest problem it has is it's terrible pacing and over reliance on flashbacks to fill in plot holes. More often then not, the flashbacks that are shown aren't necessary. By implementing these flashbacks, it frequently slows down the momentum of the main storyline to a halt. One of the bigger themes that the film deals with is human nature. It tries to tackle this theme to be a bit more than a typical big spectacle summer movie and be more cerebral, yet it does not go all the way with their attempt and due to that the film suffers a bit. Luckily, despite these flaws the film is still enjoyable. It has some enjoyable action sequences and Skarsgard has a lot of chemistry with his co-stars. The plot in itself is decent enough and isn't just something that is used to mandate bigger action set pieces.
The biggest star of the film is Margot Robbie as Jane Porter. Every scene that she is present in instantly becomes much more interesting and intriguing. She portrays the part with such strength and conviction that makes her be much more then just the typical damsel in distress. In fact, even when she is the damsel in distress you just keep waiting for her to pull one over on her captors. Alexander Skarsgard isn't bad nor is he good as Tarzan, but he certainly looked the part. He is a bit of a one note actor, which in this case, his role catered to his ability as an actor as he was largely very broody while lacking any real emotion which made it hard to empathize with him. Samuel L. Jackson was very good as the comedic relief and without him this film could have been pretty boring. The biggest surprise to me was how Christoph Waltz as the villain is criminally underused. He is one of the best character actors in the business and yet his character was underdeveloped and largely forgettable.