THE LEG­END OF TARZAN

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

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.

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