There's a small trend where movies tend to come in pairs, back in 1971 there were two movies in which an ordinary person (or persons) savagely kill intruders in their house. In 2010, there were two movies heavily based on Ancient Greek mythology and in 2013 there were two films about a foreign invasion of the White House. 2016 saw two films about a boy raised in the jungle by animals, these were The Jungle Book and The Legend of Tarzan both of which were based on classic literacy works.
The Legend of Tarzan is based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the guy who wrote the John Carter stories) and stars Alexander Skarsgård as the titular hero, a human raised in the company of animals. This gave Tarzan a deep spiritual connection with the animals that was so strong that they accepted him as one of his own. He is revered by the tribes and villages in Central Africa, but these tribes would soon be under threat by the colonial power Belgium who wish to exploit the mountains of gold in the Congo region.
Like The Jungle Book, The Legend of Tarzan is about a boy born and raised in the jungle, however the film adaption of the Tarzan legend is about his later life. It’s a welcome direction to go in as Tarzan’s early life is probably well known and we didn’t need another origins style film that would be very similar to The Jungle Book. Instead the film focuses on his life as an adult, married to a woman named Jane (Margot Robbie) both of whom are already highly established in the animal kingdom and the tribes of Central Africa.
Tarzan’s relationships with the animals and the African tribes is immersive and engaging and the film does a good job building a legend around him in the early stages of the film (it builds a world that reveres him as saviour). There’s some decent scenes in which Tarzan interacts intimately with the animal kingdom and relishes being part of the Tribal culture, however the film is let down by Skarsgård’s disappointingly bland central performance. Skarsgård certainly looks the part, and he worked hard achieving that flawless physique but the film decided to depict Tarzan as a brooding and boring hero and Skarsgård is unable to make the character an engaging one.
He’s not the only character that doesn’t make for a thrilling watch, Margot Robbie’s Jane says she doesn’t want to be the damsel in distress but spends half the film either captured or getting captured and Christoph Waltz’s immaculately dressed villain is a fairly subpar generic villain with a standard accent from somewhere in Central Europe. What’s more interesting is the animals as you find yourself more engaged in the fate of the animals than the humans.
Due to the similar content The Jungle Book and Legend of Tarzan it’s inevitable that the two would be compared to one another, particularly the visual effects. The GCI rendering of the animals in The Jungle Book is by far more convincing than they are in The Legend of Tarzan, but they’re not bad too the extent they’re distracting. The film makes use of wonderful African plains as there are some lovely shots of the Gabonese landscapes (where the landscapes scenes were shot) but most of the filming was done in a studio in England so the set designers did a terrific job in making the sets look like an authentic Africa.
Director David Yates (director of the last four Potter movies) has done better work as has Henry Braham whose grating cinematography repeatedly keeps circling around its characters even when they’re doing a basic thing such a conversing with one another. The film can be a little slow to get going, but despite its flaws The Legend of Tarzan is a watchable film but if it were not for the forgettable writing the film would be a more immersive one.