It’s more than a century since Edgar Rice Burroughs first created Tarzan, and in that time he’s been the subject of more than 200 films. It’s not hard to see the romantic appeal the character has held for directors over the years, but in David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan the so-called ‘Lord of the Jungle’ feels more like a dusty old relic than a vibrant action hero. Maybe it’s time to retire him permanently.
The plot takes us through the Belgian Congo at the height of the colonial era. It spends an awful lot of time loudly proclaiming that Slavery Was A Bad Thing – see Samuel L. Jackson, whose character feels like the one black friend racist people keep pointing to in order to prove they aren’t racist – but the script could only be more tone-deaf if Louise Linton had been given a rewrite. Watching angel-haired Margot Robbie waxing lyrical about “going home” to Africa it’s hard to believe that this was a film made in 2016.
Unfortunately, even a dose of self-awareness wouldn’t stop The Legend of Tarzan from being unbearably boring. After the lushness of Disney’s The Jungle Book, the Belgian Congo looks drab and dull, inhabited by distractingly fake-looking CGI animals. The cast is entirely devoid of charisma, and uninspired action scenes often give way to cartoonish antics: some of the stupider plot points include Tarzan’s mutant knuckles and Christoph Waltz’s deadly friendship bracelet, both haphazardly introduced and promptly forgotten about.
Just because something is classic, doesn’t make it timeless. Cringingly awkward and utterly forgettable in equal measure, The Legend of Tarzan uses the formula of superhero movies to try and update a classic literary character but instead serves only to highlight how outdated he’s become.
CAST: Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L Jackson
DIRECTOR: David Yates
WRITERS: Adam Cozad, Craig Brewer (screenplay), Edgar Rice Burroughs (novels)
SYNOPSIS: Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.