The Legend of Tarzan – The good with the bad

Photo courtesy of Warnor Bros. Pictures

Seven Shots of Tarzans Abs Out of Ten

I was really hoping that The Legend of Tarzan would be a great film. It has a strong cast, looked visually arresting, and was taking an interesting angle on a character that had existed for more than a century. Unfortunately, it’s inconsistent across the board, and it really fails to cause you to invest in much of the plot. It also fails to properly use its great cast. It isn’t bad, there’s plenty of entertainment to be found in it, its failings just ultimately drag it down into being a mediocre film.

Heading the cast as Tarzan, Alexander Skarsgard is definitely able to physically fulfill the role and generally gives a serviceable performance, but his noticeably inconsistent accent throughout the film genuinely bothered me.

Margot Robbie plays opposite of him as Jane, and really gives the most enjoyable performance of the film. She plays around with the damsel in distress stereotype frequently, and is charismatically strong-willed throughout the film.

Samuel L. Jackson, on the other hand, is a subpar comic relief. Both the actual jokes and the comedic timing frequently fall flat, making light hearted scenes somewhat cringe worthy, and dramatic scenes less engaging. It’s unfortunate to see an actor I’ve so often commended give a mediocre performance, but I suspect it has something to do with the films PG-13 rating.

Rounding out the cast is Christopher Waltz playing Christopher Waltz. He’s played his calmly menacing and sophisticated brand of villain on multiple occasions and for this role nothing has really changed. It’s not a bad performance, it’s just one I’ve seen before that doesn’t really even try to do anything new. Legend of Tarzan makes a habit of failing to use an actor to their full potential, and this only becomes more apparent when you look at the forgettable role of Dijmon Hounsou as a vengeful chief.

One of the other major issues for the film is a lack of interest in the plot. The world building of the film is great, and it’s very engaging to see flashbacks to what we know as the events of Tarzan, but they don’t take the time to let some important characters develop so that we actually care about them.

Hounsou’s vengeful chief is probably the largest example of the lack of character development. We’re initially told why he seeks vengeance and then eventually we’re even shown, but all in all he probably has fewer than ten minutes of screen time. His role is pivotal in The Legend of Tarzan, and the turning point between him and Tarzan is meant to be one of the major dramatic moments in the film. But since he’s barely been developed, I just don’t care about him. Since I don’t care about him, I don’t care about the plot. It’s an issue that repeats itself when another character dies, and it really just comes down to the film needing to spend more time developing characters it expects us to care about.

I know I’m making it sound like The Legend of Tarzan is a bad movie, but it really isn’t. It looks great, especially in the action sequences with Tarzan (which are also, incidentally, a blast to watch). Its world building is very engaging and it develops a kind of symbiosis with how stunning the film looks. Nothing is really done terribly in the film, it’s just unfortunate to see the mediocre things that keep this film from being any better than average.