A Swing and a Miss
Throughout the majority of "The Legend of Tarzan," I just kept wondering: When will the Phil Collins music start playing?
I know, I know. The 1999 Disney film probably wasn't how Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined his creation would turn out when he originally wrote the story of Tarzan. But director David Yates' 2016 imagining is so ho-hum, one could only hope that Glenn Close's gorilla mom would saunter on to the screen and let us know everything would be okay.
But the delightful Disney animation is nowhere to be found. Instead we have a movie that is so self-serious and desperate to be a big summer spectacle. Yates is capable of helming grand pieces and balancing dark tones and technical wonder (he carried the "Harry Potter" franchise from the fifth film to the end).
This time around Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) is adapting to life in London as John Clayton. Everyone knows the story of him being raised by apes and this makes him a bit of a well-known figure. He is happily married to Jane (Margot Robbie).
John is content in his new life but is convinced to head back to the Congo by George Washington Williams, who suspects slave labor is being used by the King of Belgium. In their travels, they cross paths with Captain Rom (Christoph Waltz), who is moving diamonds along with plenty of slaves. He manages to grab Jane, too. While "The Legend of Tarzan" strives to be something deeper at times, it really is about Tarzan having to save Jane.
Even if the story is never really interesting, "The Legend of Tarzan" should be a visual treat but everything looks suspiciously hokey. It's a bit of a shock from a director who continued to breathe life into Hogwarts at the end of a beloved franchise. There is no point in "The Legend of Tarzan" where you feel immersed in the jungle, as Jon Favreau so remarkably did earlier this year with "The Jungle Book." I felt like I was staring at a green screen for almost two hours.
Skarsgård isn't given much to do with this characterization of Tarzan. He mostly struts around and broods in a wavering accent. The script by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer sells him as a caricature, instead of a developed character, and Skarsgård is never given a chance to really do much with so little. As the damsel in distress, Robbie adds some spark to the movie, which it so desperately needs. Waltz is smarmy as ever because he is the go-to for oozing smarm. Waltz may have two Oscars but I'm beginning to suspect he can only do one thing.
Jackson was cast as the comedic relief but is so heavily burdened with the script's clunky dialogue that most attempts at humor never land. It's a shame because Jackson can always amp things up by just being himself but Cozad and Brewer's script is so bad as to be cringe-inducing.
"The Legend of Tarzan" is such a mess, cutting back-and-forth in time. It's just another disappointment in this summer's movie roster. Stop giving so much money to these empty projects and reboots, Hollywood, and give us something really new!