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"Bring it to me. Bring him to me. And you shall have your diamonds."
Once and a while my mother allowed me to choose a comic strip at the store when I was a small boy. I always opted for a Tarzan comic strip. It appealed very strongly to my imagination at that time. That ruler of the jungle who used lianas to travel and who ruled over those wild fellow residents of the jungle. Even films from the old days with Johnny Weissmuller captivated me. Weissmuller was more impressive compared to this Tarzan. I'm talking about the size of his thorax and those developed biceps and triceps. Tarzan in this movie is a tad less muscled and he's already adapted to modern society. No "Me Tarzan.You Jane" conversations. He rather listens to the name John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård). A distinguished English gentleman who walks around gallantly on two legs and speaks eloquently to his fellow men. He's civilized, in other words.
And then there's Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) who explores Africa while looking for valuable diamonds to fund the expansionism of the Belgian King Leopold II. Rom is a determined globetrotter who won't let anything stand in his way so he can reach his goal. There's one obstacle between him and the valuable diamonds. And that's Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) who only wants one thing in exchange for those precious diamonds. And that's Tarzan. Time for Rom to forge a plan and lure the lord of the jungle in a clever way to the dark African continent. The jeering jungle dweller is being accompanied by his lovely wife Jane (Margot "Focus" Robbie). Something else to be worried about.
Is "The Legend of Tarzan" a bad movie? No, not really. But it isn't an excellent movie either. It sometimes looks a little bit out dated. Even though Tarzan is placed in a totally different zeitgeist and his attitude towards the natives in Africa isn't so explicitly authoritarian anymore. Even Jane isn't such a sensitive screaming blonde in distress, who runs out of the jungle the moment a tiny wild animal shows itself. Ultimately, the film unfolds itself like a typical Tarzan story in which the terror of the jungle has to rescue his wife out of the hands of the bad guys. That's how it also was portrayed in comics and the older movies. Lets say, it's not such a legendary movie.
Admit it. Tarzan doesn't look like he could withstand the primal force of the Mangani and actually he should have ended up as a comfy carpet in some hut in the bush after receiving such hammer blows of this fearsome attacker. But I could live with that. After all, he's a legend. This film is about THE legend. An unassailable and invincible superhero whose status reached iconic proportions. Clearly noticeable was the unconvincing look of the group of gorillas. Compared to "The Jungle Book", the CGI of the wild animals sometimes really looked miserable. Then again, the flock of ostriches advancing in a "Jurassic Park" kind of way, were beautifully designed. The thing that went over my head (probably because I'm thinking with a rational mind), was the way they were chasing the speeding train. The way those lianas made sure they caught up with it, was mind blowing. What ingenious system was constructed to achieve this? I couldn't figure it out immediately. But it still looked really ridiculous.
"The Legend of Tarzan" is suitable material for a cozy movie night . There's sufficient action to enjoy. And Samuel L. Jackson has been recruited to provide the comic relief. Margot Robbie looks breathtaking again as the "lady in distress." And the confrontation between Tarzan and the tribe of Mbonga was brilliant until the digitized gorillas appeared on screen. The easiest part was played by Christoph Waltz. He just had to play himself again. A great actor, but he's stuck in the same routine lately. Despite everything, Tarzan was,is and remains a vibrant legend.
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This was surprisingly entertaining considering all the negative buzz from critics. I enjoyed the spectacle of exotic places and animals, superhuman physics and the ridiculously high stakes at every turn. It's a leave-your-brain-at-the-door kind of popcorn flick to be enjoyed by people who like to see old-fashioned adventure yarns.
The Legend of Tarzan's main problem (aside from uneven CGI, secret origin flashbacks awkwardly edited in, and some WB-imposed dinginess) is perhaps that its politics are a little fuzzy. Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) goes back to the Congo to fight colonialism, but the character is himself a sort of colonial ideal; and Jane is written as a feminist, but is still mostly a damsel in distress. But some of that goes to the core of the concept, and does it then mean Tarzan stories shouldn't be attempted? If Legend has a theme, it's that of asking forgiveness FOR colonialism. It just can't get away from its White Messiah. To be sure, this is an odd story for the King of the Jungle. It's more or less a team-up with Django Unchained (George, played by Samuel Jackson), with Jane in tow as an equal partner in the marriage (Margot Robbie can do no wrong is one of my mantras), versus Christoph Waltz plays Christoph Waltz as a Belgian slave trader. Pulp Africa is interesting, Tarzan is played like a superhero with animal powers (I have no problem with that), and most of the characters, even in small parts, have some personality. I don't feel like everything was adequately developed, but it's a fine and entertaining jungle action movie, nowhere near the disaster some critics would have it.
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