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Claudio Says THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is A Passable Film That Leaves You Wanting More

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FILM REVIEW: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

BY CLAUDIO ZELAYA

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It has been a great year for animal related films. “Jungle Book” and “Zootopia” are definitely in my top five of the year so far and they both demonstrate the strides being made in computer animation. “The Legend of Tarzan” is hands down the most beautiful film I’ve seen this year, combining aspects of both of the movies I just mentioned. Visuals will get me in the theater once, but the story had to be of the same quality. Directed by David Yates, “The Legend of Tarzan” stars Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan, Margot Robbie as Jane Clayton, Cristoph Waltz as Leon Rom, and Samuel Jackson as George Washington Williams. The film has an uphill battle trying to win the hearts of the fans of the classic animated films, but it also has to bring up the box office from the slump it’s in this summer.

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The story begins with Leon Rom trying to recover some very valuable crystals from the Congo so that he can give it to his employer so that he can get an army…or a railroad completed for…reasons. To be honest, the motivation was kind of lost on me on why this was all happening. In trying to get the crystals, he comes across Chief Mbona, played by Djimon Honsou, who would need to grant him safe passage and help locate the crystals Rom needs. However, his one condition for his help would be to bring Tarzan back to the jungle. This is where Sam Jackson’s character comes into play as a means to talk Tarzan to going back to the Congo with Jane enthusiastically volunteering to tag along. Right off the bat, the opening sequence is action packed, suspenseful, and sets up a really impressive look at the tribe and even Leon Rom’s capabilities. This and the ending are probably the only exciting parts of the movie sadly. The story is simple enough that it doesn’t get lost in itself. My issue is that it took itself way too seriously for a majority of the movie. There were moments of levity so I appreciate that. I enjoyed that they delved into the African culture and a couple of the tribes that exist in Tarzan’shome. I wish they went more into that because the opening had some great setup for Chief Mbona’s tribe, which I can’t for the life of me remember the name of.

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As I said at the top, the visual design of the world in this film is breath-taking, but yet it feels hollow. The feeling of a big action film is present, but  I wanted the characters to be a little more fleshed out. Jackson’s George Williams added levity and humor to the dreary runtime enough that I didn’t want to tear my eyes out. The original animated movie was more light hearted and hopeful while still having serious undertones and I was expecting this movie to live to those expectations, but the doom and gloom of everything just didn’t let me enjoy my time. I don’t mind dark tones, but if the story and characters are as dull as the color scheme then I can’t get into it. There are a few moments where Skarsgard shows range in his performance, but I don’t think he has the charisma to carry the movie. I will say that Tarzan’s backstory was done pretty well with its use of flashbacks. It’s similar to how Snyder used them in “Man of Steel”, but with some muddled pieces edited at random spots for the sake of story. Yates was able to paint him as a man not accepted by either of the worlds he comes from. He was forced to live in the jungle and grew up with apes, but he had obstacles and a lot of pain to endure in his life. We also see Chief Mbona’s motivation for wanting to kill Tarzan which came across masterfully. Chief Mbona is a huge highlight of the film and should’ve been the main villain instead of Leon Rom and his twirly mustache bad guy mannerisms. Even Jane, with a similar backstory as Tarzan, was set up well as a strong female character. While most screenwriters like to use women as weaknesses for the male protagonist, “The Legend of Tarzan” at least tries to be aware of that tried technique and takes a different approach to it. Once again, I just needed a little more in the writing as far as her relationship with Tarzan. It was sprinkled in so you have an idea of it, but the first hour was so incredibly slow that they could’ve utilized the time for building the relationship instead.

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The trailers for this movie were really exciting and I’m always up for a movie with apes, but I didn’t come out of “The Legend of Tarzan” satisfied with what I saw. They had the opportunity to really explore the jungle and build the tiny world within it, but the first hour was mostly in England. At least it felt like an hour because this movie drags. The first half and the second half aren’t paced properly and feel like different movies. The opening scene promised a much richer and exciting story than was actually shown. What saved this movie from being straight up bad are the characters they set up in George Washington Williams, Tarzan, and Jane. If this does get asequel, I would like to see bigger roles for Margot Robbie and Sam Jackson since its clear they add the most talent to the film. Skarsgard is fine while coming off dry at times. I want a little more heart and less stoicism from Tarzan. Overall, it’s okay. This won’t wow you and it won’t have you ripping your eyes like a “Fantastic Four” would; that movie clearly still haunts me. It looks like this weekend might go again to “Finding Dory” if the quality if this movie is any indication. Sound off in the comments below if you’re excited to see this or share your thoughts if you have!

FINAL WORD: StarStarEmpty StarEmpty Star