Tarzan and Jane go back to the jungle, where villainy awaits.
There’s a new Tarzan movie out with a massive budget, gigantic special effects and likely huge hopes for a franchise, and it’s quite good fun.
It all starts in an utterly dreary way though, with a wall of text describing the political situation in the Congo that feels just a syllable or two from mentioning a riveting ‘trade agreement.’ What part of the audience for this film is supposed to care about King Leopold II’s machinations?
Thankfully that element disappears for most of the running time, leaving us with a large scale action adventure about a man returning to the land where he was raised. Mostly, his homecoming involves hitting things or swinging on other things, which is probably appropriate.
The story’s a little on the lean side, with a small number of characters and a chase the damsel setup that’s actually kind of refreshing in its simplicity. Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz try to inject a little personality and Margot Robbie’s Jane is sadly lacking in that commodity.
As for Tarzan himself, or John Clayton III, he has a single glowering facial expression and two looks – shirtless and beshirted. The mostly leaden dialogue hardly allows him to crack a smile and there’s precious little emotional content for the charismatic Alexander Skarsgård to grab hold of.
Still, Harry Potter (and soon Fantastic Beasts) director David Yates keeps things moving along, mounting some decent set pieces that rely less on CG than you might think from the overly plastic trailer.
There’s lots of fighting against humans and animals and many furry creatures created with effects. I’ll be honest and say these aren’t the most convincing beasts you’ll see on screen, especially in the wake of The Jungle Book, but they look pretty good in motion and are presented in a fairly fearsome way.
I wasn’t overly fond of the physics defying vine swinging but it, and the iconic roar, had to make an appearance. It also seems like Tarzan has become something of a superhero, with the ability to communicate with animals, leap small trees in a single bound and take on armies of enemies at once. This is what happens when the market is saturated with supersorts.
It’s all a little too dark and mirthless but The Legend of Tarzan remains pretty watchable, with some capable actors, punchy action and a well mounted finale that borrows from the very fun Welcome to the Jungle. The low early box office performance suggests a franchise isn’t on the cards but time, and international figures, will tell.