July 2, 2016
When I learned that there will be yet another Tarzan movie this year, I was really puzzled why Hollywood keeps retelling this story and rebooting this character over and over again. I thought I will never go watch it. However when I saw the trailer, it looked so beautifully-made, so I became excited to watch it. The initial reviews I read had been bad, but the stunning visuals I saw in the trailer had greater weight on my decision to go judge this film myself.
It has been several years after Tarzan a.k.a. John Clayton III (Alexander Skarsgard) had returned to England and reclaimed the title of Lord Greystoke. One day, he was convinced by an American activist George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead an expedition to investigate the reports that King Leopold of Belgium was enslaving the natives of the Congo to gain control over its precious gemstone mines via the ruthlessly cruel Capt. Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz).
While going back to Africa with Jane (Margot Robbie) on this new adventure was the main story, the film would also flashback into the past recounting the oft-told legend of Tarzan we are already quite familiar with. We see here yet again how the baby Tarzan was adopted by the female ape Kala and how he struggled growing up with the apes. We also get to see another version of how Tarzan met Jane Porter, among other memories, both good and bad.
The tall (1.94 m) Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard bulked up for four months to achieve the Tarzan physique he proudly displayed in most of this film. His Tarzan is the epitome of the strong silent male, an unemotional man of action not words. He looked gracefully animalistic in his action scenes, be it running, fighting, or swinging on the vines. His Tarzan effectively struck an romantic chord in his scenes with his beautiful Jane.
Because the central character Tarzan was so stoic, it was up to the characters around him to liven up the scenes with their more colorful characterizations. Margot Robbie was a spirited Jane who did not allow herself to be a damsel in distress, even when she was already in chains. Samuel L. Jackson provided most of the comic relief as a smart-aleck sidekick character who never seemed to lose his way in the jungle even if he could hardly keep with Tarzan. Christoph Waltz is already so stereotyped in these European villain roles that he seems to just be playing the same role over and over, but he does them so well.
The storytelling might be a tad slow for a such a predictable storyline with some cheesy dialog, but I did not really mind. I thought director David Yates (who also directed those fantastic last four Harry Potter films) did well in executing this film with his vital sense of imagery. While several scenes with the great apes gave a palpably hostile atmosphere of peril, those gentle scenes showing Tarzan interact with his old animal friends were a welcome respite.
The cinematography of the jungle was mesmerizing. The film editing and visual effects of the action scenes were exciting and spectacular. The visuals were excellent as the trailer promised. The 3D looked so good, definitely giving the action sequences that extra punch. It is fair to note though that the CG animals of the recent "The Jungle Book" movie still looked better than the animals here.
Anyhow, this film had my attention and I was entertained. I thought the iconic character of Tarzan was successfully rebooted for the modern generation in this film. Do catch this one on the big screen to fully appreciate its visual grandeur. 8/10.