Skip to main content

Tarzan, you look funny!

The Legend of Tarzan
(2016)

(SPOILERS) Good grief, this is ape shit. And not in a good, crazy-ape-shit-bonkers way. Or even monkey nuts. David Yates is very lucky to have the Harry Potter franchise to fall back on if The Legend of Tarzan is indicative of the standard of ineptitude he delivers when he doesn’t have the keepers of holy Harry statutes hovering over him, watching his every move. The movie’s mystifying reasonable performance at the box office last summer can only, I assume, be put down to the throngs of Skarsgård devotees itching to see him rippling his abs.


I certainly can’t figure out what else would have induced anyone to seek out this picture (we should, thankfully, be spared a sequel, as it cost far too much to merit a follow up). Reportedly, there were production problems en route, with WB thinking they had a disaster on their hands (they did, pretty much). You can see certain worried calculations being made in advance, such as casting Samuel L Jackson in a prominent role in an attempt to head off the clumsiness of having a great white saviour who knows how to live in Africa better than the actual Africans. Jackson, after all, is used to defending insensitive white people against Spike Lee. Sam is entirely reliable here, which is to say that he’s on autopilot, picking up his lavish cheque, and not remotely enthused by anything other than his latest rug (there’s a gag about him licking a CGI ape’s nuts, which is roughly representative of what Yates is doing to the Tarzan legend, and takes us back to the first paragraph).


There’s also an attempt to model Tarzan as the original superhero, except that instead of suiting up, he strips down. Curiously, the bashful makers couldn’t quite bring themselves to have the Lord of the Jungle prancing about in a loincloth, except in flashbacks, so Alex’s troos have to settle for falling dangerously low about his hips. But, to be fair to Yates, our jungle-infested vine swinger’s continually adored by the female gaze; when Tarzan gets it on with Jane (a resoundingly forgettable Margot Robbie, proving she can only do so much when there’s nothing to dig into – she may as well be Denise Richards here – but she’s also entirely to blame for taking the damsel in distress role), it’s all about his flesh. One might, as such, advocate the picture as an updating of Tarzan the Ape Man, if it was all about Miles O’Keeffe rather than Bo Derek, that is. And if one were to disposed towards advocating Tarzan the Ape Man in the first place (which, let’s face it, no one over fourteen would be).


What it wants to be, I suspect, is Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes done right (and playing for the blockbuster crowd). Instead, it gets almost everything wrong. Where Greystoke boasted unconvincing ape costumes, Legend has whack CGI. Whack CGI everywhere. Really, this is pitiful stuff, with distractingly distended CGI apes battling a tangible Tarzan, and a distractingly distended CGI Tarzan swinging through the jungle, attempting to leap onto a CGI train. It’s enough to give Stephen Sommers, crown prince of gravity-free, CGI gymnastics, the scream habdabs. There’s more than a surfeit of CGI animals, so many I frequently wondered if I was catching the Jumanji reboot a year early, and Yates in his studio jungle (perhaps he was following Tarzan’s reasoning – “I’ve already seen Africa, and it’s hot”) and with his two-tone colour grading draining any hint of bona fide atmosphere, we’re never in danger of mistaking this for a believable setting.


The plot ostensibly posits a serious-minded piece about Tarzan defeating slavery in the Congo, but with Christoph Waltz hamming it up in the most irritating manner (seriously, Christoph, quit it already with the Hollywood villains. What’s that? You’ve got Alita: Battle Angel lined up. Oh, well) and pretty much every element following his lead in caricature, there’s little chance of respect shown or given. Skarsgård is entirely bland in the lead role, stuck somewhere between working hard at maintaining an English accent, meeting the demands of eye candy, and glowering. Mind you, Yates cast him because he loves “his verticality”. That’s fair. If there’s one thing The Legend of Tarzan has got, it’s verticality.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Imagine a plant that could think... Think!

The Avengers 4.12: Man-Eater of Surrey Green
Most remarked upon for Robert Banks-Stewart having “ripped it off” for 1976 Doctor Who story The Seeds of Doom, although, I’ve never been wholly convinced. Yes, there are significant similarities – an eccentric lady who knows her botany, a wealthy businessman living in a stately home with an affinity for vegetation, an alien plant that takes possession of humans, a very violent henchman and a climax involving a now oversized specimen turning very nasty… Okay, maybe they’re onto something there… – but The Seeds of Doom is really good, while Man-Eater of Surrey Green is just… okay.

Why are you painting my house?

mother!
(SPOILERS) Darren Aronofsky has a reasonably-sized chin, but on this evidence, in no time at all he’ll have reduced it to a forlorn stump with all that stroking. And then set the remains alight. And then summoned it back into existence for a whole new round of stroking. mother! is a self-indulgent exercise in unabated tedium in the name of a BIG idea, one no amount of assertive psued-ing post-the-fact can turn into a masterpiece. Yes, that much-noted “F” cinemascore was well warranted.

You better watch what you say about my car. She's real sensitive.

Christine (1983)
(SPOILER) John Carpenter was quite open about having no particular passion to make Christine. The Thing had gone belly-up at the box office, and adapting a Stephen King seemed like a sure-fire way to make bank. Unfortunately, its reception was tepid. It may have seemed like a no-brainer – Duel’s demonic truck had put Spielberg on the map a decade earlier – but Carpenter discoveredIt was difficult to make it frightening”. More like Herbie, then. Indeed, the director is at his best in the build-up to unleashing the titular automobile, making the fudging of the third act all the more disappointing.

This isn't fun, it's scary and disgusting.

It (2017)
(SPOILERS) Imagine how pleased I was to learn that an E Nesbitt adaptation had rocketed to the top of the US charts, evidently using a truncated version of its original title, much like John Carter of Mars. Imagine my disappointment on rushing to the cinema and seeing not a Psammead in sight. Can anyone explain why It is doing such phenomenal business? It isn’t the Stephen King brand, which regular does middling-at-best box office. Is it the nostalgia factor (‘50s repurposed as the ‘80s, so tapping into the Stranger Things thing, complete with purloined cast member)? Or maybe that it is, for the most part, a “classier” horror movie, one that puts its characters first (at least for the first act or so), and so invites audiences who might otherwise shun such fare? Perhaps there is no clear and outright reason, and it’s rather a confluence of circumstances. Certainly, as a (mostly) non-horror buff, I was impressed by how well It tackled pretty much everything that wasn’t the hor…

It could have been an accident. He decided to sip a surreptitious sup and slipped. Splash!

4.10 A Surfeit of H20
A great episode title (definitely one of the series’ top ten) with a storyline boasting all the necessary ingredients (strange deaths in a small village, eccentric supporting characters, Emma even utters the immortal “You diabolical mastermind, you!”), yet A Surfeit of H20 is unable to quite pull itself above the run of the mill.

Have no fear! Doc Savage is here!

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
(SPOILERS) Forget about The Empire Strikes Back, the cliffhanger ending of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze had me on the edge of my seat for a sequel that never came. How could they do that to us (well, me)? This was of course, in the period prior to discernment and wisdom, when I had no idea Doc Savage was a terrible movie. I mean, it is, isn’t it? Well, it isn’t a great movie, but it has a certain indolent charm, in the manner of a fair few mid-‘70s SF and fantasy fare (Logan’s Run, The Land that Time Forgot) that had no conception the genre landscape was on the cusp of irrevocable change.

Don't worry about Steed, ducky. I'll see he doesn't suffer.

The Avengers 4.11: Two’s A Crowd
Oh, look. Another Steed doppelganger episode. Or is it? One might be similarly less than complimentary about Warren Mitchell dusting off his bungling Russian agent/ambassador routine (it obviously went down a storm with the producers; he previously played Keller in The Charmers and Brodny would return in The See-Through Man). Two’s A Crowd coasts on the charm of its leads and supporting performances (including Julian Glover), but it’s middling fare at best.

Let the monsters kill each other.

Game of Thrones Season Seven
(SPOILERS) Column inches devoted to Game of Thrones, even in “respectable” publications, seems to increase exponentially with each new season, so may well reach critical mass with the final run. Groundswells of opinion duly become more evident, and as happens with many a show by somewhere around this point, if not a couple of years prior, Season Seven has seen many of the faithful turn on once hallowed storytelling, and at least in part, there’s good reason for that.

Some suggest the show has jumped the shark (or crashed the Wall); there were concerns over how much the pace increased last year, divested as it was of George RR Martin’s novels as a direct source, but this year’s succession of events make Six seem positively sluggish. I don’t think GoT has suddenly, resoundingly, lost it, and I’d argue there did need to be an increase in momentum (people are quick to forget how much moaning went on about seemingly nothing happening for long stretches of previ…

Kill the earthworm, Steed, and ultimately you kill everything. Soil, birds, animals, man.

The Avengers 4.13: Silent Dust
Revisiting Season Four, several episodes have fallen slightly in my estimation, but Silent Dust (along with Dial a Deadly Number) is one that has gone up. The plot isn’t all that, continuing the horticultural (and pesticide) theme of Man-Eater of Surrey Green, but it has a great supporting cast, and in Avengers terms that’s often the difference between a hit and a dud.