The Legend of Tarzan tells the story of 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.
After seeing a pre-release version of this almost six months ago since a friend of mine nicely invited me to go along with her and five packed cinemas to give some feedback before it’s release this weekend, I can finally talk about it! We went to the European Premiere of The Legend of Tarzan last night and the differences were noticeable between the two edits we saw, like the Producer David Barron had said when we spoke to him and he wasn’t lying.
When talking to my friend after we saw this final cut at the premiere, we both felt that it was a lot shorter than it actually was at its hour and fifty minutes but that’s not due to the fact the previous version we saw was 3+ hours. There was so many moments that didn’t need to be cut that explained a lot of backstory for the characters along with some really good moments of intensity between Christoph Waltz’s Leon Rom and Alexander Skarsgård’s Tarzan as well as between Waltz and Margot Robbie’s Jane. The film was definitely simplified and at times, it felt a little too simplified. This didn’t answer’s the film’s problem of there really being no central story or conflict whatsoever and the question of why Waltz’s character despised Tarzan so much. It was like all they did was cut, fix up some of the colour correction (that still was a little off for me), the sound, and the soundtrack improved (a lot of which of the latter was still provisional when my friend and I saw the film months ago). I get that they were trying to make it shorter and why a lot of the scenes were cut from a marketing perspective but in doing so, the filmmakers lost some of the heart of the film along with it.
The Legend of Tarzan finds its self amongst a plethora of other struggling, big budget tentpoles that bombs or turned out in an average light (much like that of recent release Independence Day: Resurgence, the March release of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the September 2015 release of Pan), it shouldn’t have be THAT much of a surprise that Tarzan was going to be nothing more than average at best, something of a mindless spectacle of enjoyment. It was beautifully made and it’s cinematography is something that it has definitely going for it. It’s director David Yates’ first non-Harry Potter related outing and he did alright but it’s no cigar.
The best part of the entire film was Samuel L. Jackson being Samuel L. Jackson and it’s something that a lot of people have come to love him for so if you’re going to go and see this film at the cinemas (or later at home), he’s a pretty funny reason to. If you want a live action adaptation of the childhood “Tarzan and Jane” animation, this is definitely not the film for you. Yes it does have a lot of the elements of the original text written by Edgar Rice Burroughs but it also had a lot of historical context that didn’t exactly fit with the film despite best efforts. In this version of the story, also, Robbie’s Jane Clayton is a spirited woman of the world and hardly much of a damsel in a distress though she certainly seems like it in how she’s portrayed with much of the bite she had in the initial cut I saw stripped away. Because of this, her struggle in being held captive by Waltz in the middle stretch seemed a little strenuous and slow.
Alexander Skarsgård’s portrayal of Tarzan was a little underwhelming despite how he physically fit the part. Don’t get me wrong, I love Skarsgård and he comes from a family of well known Swedish actors that include Stellan (who was amazing in King of Devil’s Island), Gustav (Vikings), Bill (Hemlock Grove), and Valter Skarsgård. He was especially stiff in his performance of Tarzan while his character resided at the Greystoke Estate in England but seemingly more at home once he returns to the Congo though it wasn’t entirely Skarsgård’s fault, however, as there was an issue in it’s conception and in Skarsgård’s singular approach. Like I said, he physically fits the part to a T and there are some emotional moments like in his reunion with his African family, but it’s as if he keeps himself at an arms length from the character and doesn’t exactly want us to connect. As a result, the audience can’t connect with him and through him to the film.
At best, the film manages to achieve what it sets out to do – creating a sweeping VFX laden (despite how unpolished it seemed in both the versions I saw) adventure that adapts a old story in a relatively new way.