When CGI is really tacky and gratuitous, it can turn any action-adventure into a snore. The Legend of Tarzan is not one of those movies where one wants too much computer generated imagery (CGI, a.k.a. special effects), you want some kind of convincing spectacle of stunts with a hunk as Tarzan and a sense of wild untamed animals in the jungle. I’d rather see a scene with one real gorilla rather than two dozen fake ones occupying the shot. The CGI gorillas here are horrendous, and it’s supposedly a big scene where the baddie goes mano-o-mano with Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard, a ridiculously good-look, no, very good-looking actor with acting chops – just no acting chops here). We’ve waited an hour and five minutes to see Tarzan shirtless, and then we’re subjected to a pummeling that doesn’t move the story forward. Nor does it offer special effects anyone wants to see.
We’re also subjected to Christoph Waltz turn in another performance that echoes Hans Landa from “Inglorious Basterds,” here using a rosary as a strangulation weapon but using the slimy aristocratic line readings he always uses. Couldn’t we at least see some kind of jazz-play variation on that character? His cliché character, the Belgium born Captain Leon Rom, is running a slave trade in Africa as an impetus to horde diamonds. The movie hinges on this white imperialist subject as its jolt of drama. Yet this version of the story is so impersonal that it’s no jolt, it’s just an arbitrary fake movie message.
We also gratuitously get the backend of the Tarzan story. Many might know from previous Tarzan movies that he was a wild child raised in the jungle but transitioned into civilization to become the noble Lord Greystoke (“Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan” is a very good serious Tarzan movie that tells that complete arc, with Christopher Lambert superb at playing a man caught between two worlds). In this 2016 entry, Skarsgard begins the movie as the civilized Lord Greystoke who is summoned back into an African-set intrigue.
Excuse me, but wouldn’t it have been more blockbuster movie kind of fun to just have a feral Tarzan from the start? I give Skarsgard minus points just for being too damned cultured and polished around the edges.
The African landscapes count for something. And at the very least, Margot Robbie – who doesn’t have much to do except play a love interest, then a captive – is easy on the eyes. The big kiss is swoony and sexy. Not that this 2016 version is worth going out of your way to catch for any other reasons.
With Samuel L. Jackson, who has an interesting physical look with leanness and book smarts, yet as George Washington Williams (a real politically influential figure) turns in the blandest of any performance he’s done. Djimon Honsou of “Gladiator” and “Amistad” is cast of the stalwart black man of dignity gone bad.
109 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ACTION-ADVENTURE / YOUNG TEENS / WEEKEND PARTY GAME RIDICULE
Film Cousins: “Tarzan the Ape Man” (1932); “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan” (1984); “Tarzan and the Lost City” (1998); “Tarzan” (1999).