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The Legend of Tarzan (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 110 minutes.

OK for children.

This movie is an embarrassment. Some scenes have backdrops that look so phony they are reminiscent of the opening scenes of another Warner Bros. movie, Casablanca (1942). If they arenít phony, they certainly look it. Other scenes, however, do have beautiful scenery shots of Africa.

This isnít the same story that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote and that has been made into umpteen movies. This story is that Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) has returned to London, married Jane, and is a Member of Parliament. He is recruited back to Africa to serve as a trade emissary to Parliament.

But mischief is afoot. Unbeknownst to Tarzan, the bad guy, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), the envoy to the King of Belguim, has set the whole thing up. In order to get money so the King can send his army to take over the Congo, Leon arranged for Tarzan to be chosen as the emissary. Leon has made a deal with tribal chieftain, Mbongo (Djimon Hounsou), to capture Tarzan and deliver him to the Mbongo so Mbongo can get revenge against Tarzan for killing his son. If he does that, Leon is going to get a huge bag full of diamonds for the King.

In order that there be a movie, Jane (Margot Robbie) tags along with Tarzan on the trip.

Waltz plays the same basic character he played in Inglorious Bastards (2009). He does it well, but isnít he getting tired of it by now, the ingratiating, charming, evil villain?

Samuel Jackson is thrown in as a meaningless character, George Washington Williams (apparently based on an historical figure), I guess to get some racial diversity among the stars. He adds exactly nothing to the story, except some unneeded and not very humorous humor.

And, speaking of the story, it is ridiculous. But if you think the story is ridiculous, wait until you see the ending! It is so stunningly idiotic it would ruin any movie, much less this one that didnít need much to be ruined. Whatever tension had been built up as Tarzan chases Leon completely dissolves by an ending so bad it canít even qualify as anti-climactic.

In addition to Waltz, Robbie gives a pretty good performance as the feisty Jane. But a 21st Century gal like this Jane would have been at sea in 1890. Some of the lines she utters wouldnít have been understood by any 19th Century person.

While Skarsgard doesnít have much to say, itís fortunate that itís not much more than ďMe Tarzan, You Jane.Ē He doesnít ever say that, actually, even though there are flashbacks throughout the film that sort of tell the story of their first meeting. When we meet him heís a cultured man of perfect English and manners in London, although he needs a haircut. When he takes off his shirt and starts running around in the jungle, we see why he was cast for the part.

The film takes place in 1890 but all the natives speak perfect English, as if they were all trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which these guys playing the natives probably were. So much for verisimilitude.

The only really positive things about the movie are the CGI-created animals, especially the gorilla who engages Tarzan in a fight. While the animals are realistic, the fight and the result are absurd.

This is little more than what would have been a B film in the 1930s-40s, the second feature of a double bill, and it might not have even made that cut.