The Legend of Tarzan
Arguably second only to Hollywood’s current sequelitis is the desperate search for any half-decent pre-existing property to turn into a franchise. From the Sherlock Holmes series at one end to mega flops like – aptly enough – John Carter at the other, the last few years are littered with examples. Yet where Disney failed to bring an old Edgar Rice Burroughs character to life with the latter, Warner Bros is hoping to flourish using the author’s more famous creation in The Legend of Tarzan.
Ostensibly not an origin story (through the audience is fully caught up with multiple sepia-toned flashbacks), Tarzan sees the titular swinger return to his native Congo, with wife Jane, in tow to stop the nefarious Captain Leon Rom from destroying his homeland in the name of a bankrupt Belgian king.
It’s here where the Tarzan begins to come unstuck. The character is the ultimate “white saviour”, coming back to rescue the Congolese people from the advanced armies of Europe. It’s unsurprising that a film based on a book series originating in the 1910s has a dodgy approach to race; what is surprising is that the film does so little to address the stereotypes it liberally trades in. The issues don’t end there. While Tarzan tries to have Jane be something more than a damsel in distress, it constantly undermines these efforts (like her initial unassisted escape) by putting her in even greater peril so she ultimately still needs saving from her topless hubby.
Though, to be fair to David Yates’ latest work, no-one really comes out well from it. Alexander Skarsgard, who oozed charisma in True Blood, is hampered by an English accent as Tarzan, opting to glower instead of rage like the wild man he is supposed to be. Samuel L Jackson is, well, Samuel L Jackson, while as Leon Rom Christopher Waltz is the same kind of soft-spoken baddie he has been stuck playing since Inglorious Bastards. Only Margot Robbie rises above the fray; her Jane is sparky and bright in a picture that is too often humourless. You can see why she has become something of a Warner Bros favourite.
The Legend of Tarzan, which shares a lot of DNA with the Pirates of the Caribbean series (as well as the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes movies), does entertain in fits and spurts, especially in the buffalo-rampaging final 15 minutes. Yet director David Yates and screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer fail to truly justify this dusting off, Tarzan looking even more of a relic now that he has been brought back into the public consciousness.
The Legend of Tarzan is released nationwide on 6th July 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Legend of Tarzan here: