David Yates / Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel L Jackson, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz / Action / 2016 / 12A / 110mins
We need to talk about David Yates.
The former Harry Potter director has been in relatively steady hands, surrounded by great casts and bags of money. A first foray into a different story – which, you know, tends to happen often in the world of film – is pretty dire. Adaptation, it seems, isn’t on the Brit’s CV.
If I cast your collective minds back to a time when indestructible ships couldn’t handle a little ice, Tarzan of the Apes was fresh off the press. Although deemed a knock-off Jungle Book, the romantic appeal sold nonetheless.
Tarzan is one of those archetypes that seems to have coasted beyond mere fiction. Instead, we have embraced him as a part of society, shaped him into this 19th century myth, and let it be.
There’s one teeny tiny flaw with this – no one’s really that racist anymore. Trump and Farage aside, we live in a world that, despite what the press tells us, is global and interconnected. BIG WHITE MAN Tarzan reverses modern morality by 100 years by saving defenceless damsels in distress, apes (that raised him) and tribesmen – all set during the African colonial heyday, might I add – and if it wasn’t for his dark hair you’d half be expecting the Königgrätzer Marsch to sync with him goose-stepping.
Least to say, it’s not comfortable viewing this material when Yates has returned to original Tarzan universe. The colonial Aryan vibe returns in a big way. Samuel L Jackson seems there just to partially balance the status quo. The slavery theme is a good thematic hurrah, but the homage to Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now? It fails each and every source it touches on.
Melodramatic doesn’t cut it. Tarzan (played by a plain Alexander Skarsgard) is The Hulk in disguise, saving tribesmen and his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie). Don’t get me started on her accent… It’s like she couldn’t do English so Yates whacked out a whole backstory about why Jane is suddenly American. Christoph Waltz’s bitter Belgian Leon Rom is essentially Spectre‘s Blofeld in an unfathomably tame performance.
Above all, the CGI is insanely poor. The BBC’s Rio 2016 advert is on a par. Considering the budget, that’s an awful waste. This combined with the equally poor beige tinted flashbacks – and even worse overdubbing – just gives the impression that this was all hashed together in a week or two.
There’s plenty more to rage about. There’s stuntmen appearing on camera, faint helicopter noises that haven’t been dubbed out of panning shots, loose subplots, a poorly timed Catholic joke… this film is a waste of time.
Forget Disney, forget Phil Collins and forget coherency. Yates’s take will leave hearts swooning for the leading couple, but if it’s not a catwalk you’re after, or melodrama, then you might as well pretend this film never existed. This is for teenage girls who can handle a little angst.
Film as a Film – 1 / Target Audience – 3 / General Audience – 1
The Legend of Tarzan is out in cinemas now
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