THE LEGEND OF TARZAN
Director: David Yates
Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou. Verdict: Plenty of jungle, but where’s the rumble?
HIM, Tarzan. The one without the shirt. Nothing going on above the abs but an absent stare. Looks like he got left behind after the Magic Mike gang wrapped their last tour of the Congo. Yeah, that’s him.
Her, Jane. Blonde. Blue eyes. Been Tarzan’s missus for yonks. Captured his apey, breaky heart back when he was just another jungle boy living in the trees. Looks a lot like Margot Robbie. Yeah, that’s her.
And you? You’re gonna be one restless native. Stifling a yawn. Maybe a puzzled frown. Checking your phone every few minutes. Yeah, that’s you.
Nope, there ain’t much very legendary about The Legend of Tarzan, a wonky affair which cuts and pastes select snippets from the many ancient African adventure yarns by author Edgar Rice Burroughs. Nothing sticks for long.
The big, bare-chested problem here is Tarzan himself. As played by Alexander Skarsgard, the title character is a dull and lifeless fellow who exudes all the charisma, mystique and danger of someone who can’t find their library card.
While it is clear the actor is committed to carefully underplaying the part, everything Skarsgard brings to his performance – particularly the monotone voice and dazed gaze when in conversation mode – is at best casually underwhelming.
It does not help that the screenplay absentmindedly zigs and zags between Tarzan’s famous origin story (raised as a primate before becoming a posh 19th-century nobleman) and a not-so-fresh new adventure pitting him against corrupt Belgian diamond-mining interests.
At least the latter storytelling strand ropes in the great Christoph Waltz for main-villain duty as a Belgian bad dude charged with luring Tarzan back to the Congo so a testy tribal warlord (Djimon Hounsou) can get his revenge on our vine-swinging hero.
Margot Robbie is also a welcome (if slightly wasted) presence as Jane. Though she has her work cut out trying to connect with a semi-sedated leading man, the Australian star keeps the audience effortlessly onside throughout.
There is also some sly support work from Samuel L. Jackson as a gunslinging, wise-cracking American diplomatic emissary who will also be serving as Tarzan’s chief sidekick for the duration of this motion picture.
Even though this character is hardly necessary to proceedings, you’ll be mighty glad this bright spark sticks around once you realise it’s lights-on-and-nobody-home between Tarzan’s ears.
Anything else of note that needs to be mentioned here? Only that the special effects vary wildly in quality.
The CGI work that has been put into the jungle animals seen here is first-class. However, the poorly scaled and rendered FX on display in a frenetic finale look as unfinished as last weekend’s national election.