According to IMDB, there are 200 movie titles with the name Tarzan from 1918 to 2014. But of course, that doesn’t stop a Hollywood production studio to create another adaptation.
The Legend of Tarzan does offer some new ideas that haven’t been tackled before.
The Tarzan here is closer to the books by Burroughs without the white supremacist themes – he’s a superhuman of the jungle who can imitate a wide range of mating calls but isn’t the king of a non-white continent.
He works with the locals who may not match his strength but can keep up with him. Trailing behind is George Washington Williams who is based on a real character, intent on finding out if his suspicions are true.
Jane here is an independent woman who has enough background to prevent her from being the nice white lady – she grew up in a native village and no stranger to the jungle.
The cast does well enough, with a ripped Alexander Skarsgård. Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson play the same type of characters they are known for, but at least they didn’t phone it in.
Unfortunately, Legend of Tarzan is weighed down by adventure tropes and over-reliance on CGI.
There are potential themes here that can be expounded to tell us about the relationship of man with nature. Tarzan didn’t just spark conflicts between the Mangani Apes as an adopted child, he also ends up clashing with his own kind as a feral human. This required too much thinking so the movie opted to be a generic action-adventure film instead.
Jane is held hostage to move the plot so she’s still the damsel in distress. George Washington Williams is reduced to comic relief and trails behind Tarzan. Along the way to rescue his wife, Tarzan discovers some nefarious grand scheme with the ultimate aim to enslave his home.
As par for the course, there’s action but it relies too much on CGI. They’re a jumble of unconvincing movements and don’t resemble actual motion. In one key scene, a group of natives in white paint are confronted by apes but act as if they’re facing invisible ghosts.
Skarsgård does well as the brooding upright hero who retained his abilities, but there’s nothing much he can do apart from looking serious, flashing his abs, and acting with digitized animals when he’s not replaced by a CG doll.
Djimon Hounsou’s Mbonga is set-up as his nemesis who has believable motivations that lent some depth to the story, but this is short-lived as he gets side-aside for Rom who is basically just another version of Blofeld.
The Legend of Tarzan is a blockbuster that’s too serious to be fun, a story that is too generic to be genuinely exciting, and action that relies too much on CGI to be convincingly thrilling.
Legend of Tarzan has decent ideas buried underneath a generic blockbuster that takes itself too seriously and relies too much on CGI.