Review: The Legend of Tarzan, C-
Rated PG-13, 109 minutes
Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic literary character Tarzan once again gets the big screen treatment in the handsome but vapid "The Legend of Tarzan," a sluggish revisionist tale that may have a hard time finding an audience amidst more attractive (and better) fare. A tad old-fashioned, a tad lovely, and a tad boring, it plays like a campy, 3-D version of "Out of Africa." It's been nearly a decade since Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), also known as John Clayton III, left Africa to live in Victorian England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). Danger lurks on the horizon as Leon Rom (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, playing his usual psychopath), the treacherous envoy for King Leopold, lures the couple to the Congo. Rom plans to capture Tarzan and deliver him to an old enemy in exchange for diamonds. When Jane becomes a pawn in his devious plot, Tarzan summons his old jungle instincts to battle Rom and save the woman he loves. Directed by David Yates, director of the last several "Harry Potter" films, and co-written by Craig Brewer ("Hustle and Flow") and Adam Cozad, "The Legend of Tarzan" is an expensive, unsatisfactory and uneven misfire that lacks the spirit of the Rice Burroughs stories. It's certainly not lacking a grand, epic feel, with stellar visuals (mostly filmed on a backtage in England), including handsome photography from Rupert Gregson-Williams and nice, energetic music from Henry Braham that adds to the flow of the film, both of which are standouts in the lackluster film. Aside from that, the movie has trouble establishing its footing and identity as either a sweeping character-driven tale or a simplistic action-driven film, tending to go toward the latter. The flashbacks, designed to add some context to the plot, drags the film down as it tells Tarzan's backstory, which could've been done in a few minutes at the beginning, given the revisionist nature of the story. "Legend" is not helped by its questionable casting choices: Skarsgard has the look down, but little else, relegating Tarzan to mostly posing rather than a real character, and the addition of Samuel L. Jackson as a real-life character, George Washington Williams, for comic relief is the movie's biggest casting mistake, hurting the film's serious tone. Waltz, again typecast here as one of his milquetoast villains, is usually a treat to watch, but you have a sense of his fate from the first few frames. "The Legend of Tarzan" ends as predictably as you think it does and possibly leaving it open to future films, but I don't suspect that'll be the case. One thing is for sure, if swinging with apes and climbing trees gets you a worked out body like the ones Skarsgard has in the movie, then sign me up for that workout. Otherwise, this is one to skip, or swing away from.