There’s a fine line between a really sexy, smouldering, silent type and a really boring, hot person. A shirtless Alexander Skarsgard looks great but, Jesus, crack a smile. This is Tarzan not Twilight.
We meet this dour wildman covered in Victorian garb, refusing an invitation to return to the Congo. The invitation, naturally, turns out to be a trap set by Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) who has a scheme involving Diamonds, Djimon Hounsou and the King of Belgium’s plan to enslave the entire Congo. The plot exists to shepherd us to the CGI action here. The problem is that the set pieces are, like the lead, completely joyless.
Harry Potter director, David Yates, doesn’t manage to deliver a spectacle that feels exhilarating. Partially this is down to Tarzan’s demeanour and partially poor CGI. The effects aren’t technically the worst. What sinks them is they lack any sense of character or personality. Above all, the various animal characters never feel like anything other than zeros and ones. Along with ‘fun’, ‘peril’ is another word this movie doesn’t have in its vocabulary. It’s hard to care after our hero shrugs off the latest Gorilla beating that should, by rights, kill him so fucking much.
As for the elements that exist outside of a computer? Margot Robbie turns in an entertaining performance as Jane, even when she often has little to do other than be a living McGuffin – a damsel in distress, no matter how ‘feisty’. Samuel L. Jackson provides comic relief and a non white ally of the White Saviour. Christoph Waltz’s character feels slightly off due to an alleged deleted scene where he and Tarzan kiss. What we see on screen, as a result, feels oddly conflicted and incomplete.
Despite tripping over itself to assure us that this isn’t racist, it’s impossible in 2016 not to view all this as kinda icky. On paper this is a Tarzan who fights a colonial power to prevent slavery and who teams up with a black veteran of the American Civil War. On screen, it’s a white guy who is the best at being African, saving black people with a comedy black sidekick.
Twitter’s woke brigade needn’t worry though. As an attempt to make a colonial era story seem sound to modern audiences this fails. As an action scene delivery mechanism this is dreary and in the attempt to sex up Tarzan he feels robbed of any joie de vivre. The word ‘problematic’ could be applied to so much in this film. For example, well, almost everything. The only think pieces on this will likely be written by those wondering how much money it will lose.
The Legend of Tarzan is in cinemas now. Check out the trailer below.
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