Movie Review: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

Synopsis: John Clayton, formerly known to the world as Tarzan after being raised by apes in the African jungle, now lives in Britain with his wife, Jane, claiming his birthright as Earl of Greystone. He is content remaining in Britain but is convinced to return to his former home when he learns King Leopold II of Belgium may be enslaving the people living in the Congo Basin while he searches for diamonds. His return, which is made with Jane accompanying him, puts his life in danger as Leopold's envoy, Léon Rom, intends to capture Clayton and trade him to a tribal chief seeking revenge for the death of his son.

Who's in it? The movie stars Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz and Osy Ikhile.

Review: I've known about this movie for a while but have never been fully invested in the idea of watching it. However, my wife and I recently finished binge watching the series True Blood and since she's now an Alexander Skarsgård fan as a result of that, I figured it would be worth giving it a try after rediscovering it on Netflix. Overall, I have to say I didn't hate the movie.

At first, I wasn't a huge fan of the plot, which kind of reminded me of the movie Hook, which also featured a former hero who was forced to return to his past and deal with unsettled scores. Plus, the movie did drag on a bit in the beginning, which didn't help matters. However, once it did get going, I thought the whole idea did manage to work. There are just enough flashbacks to tell Clayton/Tarzan's (Skarsgård) backstory, for those who don't already know it, while still presenting a whole new chapter in his life.

The love story between him and Jane (Robbie) was also a nice touch. I loved how she was fully independent but also still needed her husband (who is, after all, the hero in the movie) to save the day. And frankly, had she not been in danger, I'm not really sure this movie's plot would have had the same sense of urgency.

As far as bad guys go, I thought Léon Rom (Waltz) was a decent antagonist. I think the thing that impressed me most with him was how deceptively skilled he was in a fight. At first glance, he seemed like someone who would easily be beaten by Clayton but once the movie gave us more details, it was clear that wouldn't be the case, especially since he both had Jane as a hostage and an army backing him up.

The movie did have some flaws. For one, there was way too much CGI. It's one thing to use it to avoid putting animals (or actors) in danger. However, this film had a bit of a cartoonish feel to it because of the excessive amount used. As I told my wife, even the actors themselves didn't seem real at times.

I also kind of wish the movie would have given us a bit more detail about why Clayton returned to Britain in the first place. The backstory just sort of ends with him meeting Jane and being injured to the point of hospitalization. It doesn't discuss how they figured out Clayton's real identity or why he would want to leave the only home/family he ever knew. I mean, I know Jane had a role in that probably, but she didn't seem like the type who would willingly leave Africa (where she also grew up) either.

Final Opinion: I don't think it's the best Tarzan movie I've seen. However, despite some things I didn't like about it, I still thought it was an entertaining film. At minimum, I liked it more than I thought I would.

My Grade: B-


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