Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan Review

We once again dive into this trend of doing live-action remakes of Disney's animated movies. On the table today is Tarzan! And before you bring it up, let me bring it up for you. Tarzan was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, which is 87 years before Disney's animated Tarzan. Plenty of Tarzan movies, books, comics, and other media existed before Disney jumped on the bandwagon in 1999. But I'm still calling this a part of the live-action Disney trend because I don't think we'd have this movie if it weren't for all the other successful live-action Disney remakes in the last several years. Disney's not the only studio that has been doing these as The Legend of Tarzan is brought to us by Warner Bros. They were responsible for the epic disaster that was Pan last year, so they didn't get off to a great start in trying to cash in on this trend. Most thought The Legend of Tarzan was going to be a second strike for them. Even thought Rotten Tomatoes might suggest that this is in fact the case (34 percent), fans have been a lot nicer to this movie. The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is a much nicer 73 percent. It also got an A- cinemascore and surprised at the box office with $46.5 million over the four-day weekend. Personally I'm with the fans here. This is a pretty solid Tarzan flick.

Did we need another Tarzan movie? Perhaps not. But we got one. Sometimes I find myself complaining about all these unnecessary remakes. Other times I just accept their existence and move on with my life. I've always been intrigued with the idea of The Legend of Tarzan. When I heard about the cast and crew here, that's what got my attention. Then the trailers came out and I thought it could be cool. However, I thought I was in the minority with this. No one seemed to be excited for this movie. But yet the aforementioned box office totals suggest that the phenomenon of the silent majority was in play here. I wasn't the only person looking forward to this. Other people were excited, too. They just didn't vocalize their excitement. Or at least not as loudly as those who weren't excited. Speaking of Disney, though, it is worth mentioning that this is definitely not a specific re-imagining of Disney's Tarzan. This goes back and remakes the original stories of Tarzan that Disney strayed from, like they always do, and does so with a very dark, serious tone. I would make a guess that that was the root of many people's worries. The dark, serious tone that is. I mean, heaven forbid a Tarzan movie be any fun, right? We are talking about a man raised in the jungle by apes, aren't we?

I was ready to use that point as my major complaint here. Turns out I totally dug it, though. It works. As far as our story goes, we do have a two for one deal going on. I don't know exactly how the conversations went in the pre-production stage of this movie, but I imagine a lot of people agreed on the fact that we didn't need to rehash the same Tarzan story that we've seen a hundred times already. Thus this movie is a sequel. Tarzan is already married to Jane and they have left the jungles of Congo and are living in England. And Tarzan doesn't go by Tarzan. He goes by John Clayton III, the name his father originally gave him. The premise for this sequel follows a bit of a political drama where Congo has been divided up by the United Kingdom and Belgium at some point in the 1800's. Belgium is going bankrupt, so their king sends a man named Leon Rom, played by Christoph Waltz, into Congo to find some legendary diamonds. Rom runs into a native tribe in Congo, whose leader says he will give Rom the diamonds in exchange for Tarzan. So Tarzan is invited back to Congo, not realizing this is a trap. He hesitates at first, but then him and Jane return. I say this is a two for one deal because while this story is going on, the movie slowly unfolds their version of the Tarzan origin story. So it's like we're watching two movies in one.

I will admit that as I was watching this movie, I found myself a lot more interested in the flashbacks than the sequel story of Tarzan returning to the jungle. I almost wish that we had actually had been given this story first before as a movie before we dove straight into this sequel. Those scenes were all super intense and dramatic. They had my undivided attention. We all know that Tarzan was raised by apes. Disney went with gorillas. The original stories weren't gorillas, but were close to gorillas. So to be safe I am going to call them apes. And these apes are super scary, much like full grown gorillas and chimpanzees are in real life. You know that story of the silverback gorilla that got shot in the zoo? "Oh but he was just going to take care and love the child that fell in his cage and those mean zookeepers shot him unfairly." Ha ha ha ha ha!!! Yeah, not to get political, but that's a ridiculous stance. These are scary animals in real life and they're definitely terrifying in this movie. The ape that the original story, as well as Disney, calls Kerchak is a terrifying beast in this movie. Kala acts as a nice motherly figure in this, but I was scared of Kerchak. We didn't anthropomorphize them like Disney, so they don't talk. But they don't need to. You knew Kerchack was angry and you knew why. There's also some serious drama that goes on between Tarzan and these apes that I was fully invested in.

So yes, this backstory that the movie was telling us was fascinating. I loved it and I kinda wanted a full movie with just that backstory. The sequel story wasn't quite as interesting. Not at first, anyways. But then we finally came full circle. When Tarzan goes back to these apes, it's not a friendly reunion and thus you know that some crazy drama went on and when that's finally revealed, this movie, both in the flashbacks and the current story, gets pretty good. The movie doesn't anthropomorphize the apes. But there's definitely some great emotion. In fact, one of the best character arcs in this movie is one of the apes. That ape and the leader of the native tribe, played by Djimon Hounsou. I will say no more, but yeah, Djimon Hounsou is one of the several side characters that stole this movie right away from Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie as Tarzan and Jane. But native tribesmen? Yeah, like I said, this is not Disney's Tarzan. We have a couple different tribes as well as a whole assortment of animals including lions, wildebeest, ostriches, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and more. It's not just Tarzan and the apes. We're in the African Congo! Thus even though we know the story of Tarzan, we don't know where this specific story is going in either timeline. So this isn't as predictable as you might think. And there's a lot of emotion.

Another side character that stole the show away from Tarzan was Samuel L. Jackson's character. I had no idea what type of role he was going to play in this movie or how big that role would be, but I was excited that he was in this movie. I was even more excited when I learned that he had more than just a cameo or a limited role. He is one of our supporting characters, but he's a supporting character that is in the movie for pretty much the entire run time and he has a ton of fun hanging out and going on this adventure with Tarzan. This is not to say that Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie weren't good in this movie. They definitely were. Skarsgard does a great job at playing this socially awkward ape man who is now married to the prettiest girl on the planet. And he has a very intimidating presence as he is 6'4" in real life and is a total beefcake in this movie, much like Tarzan should be. Him swinging around on vines and fighting various animals and humans is totally believable and super boss. Don't mess with Skarsgard's Tarzan or you will be sorry. And speaking of the prettiest girl on the planet, Margot Robbie makes a great Jane. I make it no secret that this woman is my number one celebrity crush at the moment. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, but she is a phenomenal actress that kills it in every role she's in. Her being cast as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad is half the reason why I'm so excited for that movie! That's a match made in heaven.

How about these visual effects in the movie? Phenomenal! I saw this movie in 3D IMAX and even though I wasn't initially excited for that part of the movie, it ended up being the best 3D IMAX movie that I've seen this summer. Granted, its only competition was Alice Through the Looking Glass, Warcraft, and Independence Day: Resurgence as I didn't see Captain America: Civil War or X-Men: Apocalypse in 3D IMAX. But regardless, this was pretty good. It actually effectively used the 3D when Tarzan was swinging on vines through the jungle and fighting various opponents. It wasn't over the top or distracting. But it was enough for me to be entertained by the 3D, which is hard to do nowadays. And the IMAX part was great. The score of the movie is fantastic, which in my opinion is the most important part of an IMAX adventure. A giant screen, fun 3D, and great visuals are nice, but if you don't have that good score, then it's a waste of an IMAX ticket. This movie has that and it's a score that is done by Rupert Gregson-Williams, who is known for scoring a bunch of Adam Sandler movies and that's almost it. Impressive, though, because when I was looking up who did the score, I was expecting a big name composer. And yes, the visuals in this movie are great. It's amazing what we can do with CGI today. You would think that all of these animals are real, but they're not.

No, we probably didn't need another Tarzan movie. But that's the case with most of these live-action Disney remakes. We don't really need any of them. If you hate the fact that they exist, well you're in for some trouble because there will be a lot more them done by Disney themselves as well as others. So even though this movie wasn't necessary, we got it anyways. Turns out it's a pretty solid Tarzan movie. If you're a fan of the character like I am, you'll be happy to know that they did him justice. The cast of the movie is perfect. Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie were great as Tarzan and Jane, even though they did get overshadowed slightly by the excellent performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Djimon Hounsou. Christoph Waltz was a slightly forgettable villain, but he still did his best with what he was given. I was worried about the serious tone of the movie, but it worked. The action sequences are great, the visual effects are phenomenal, the movie has a good amount of emotion, and a story that sucked me in. Sure, it took a while for me to get invested in the present timeline as I was more invested in the flashbacks at first. But in the second half of the movie I was invested in both timelines and I thought they tied together very effectively. So yeah, this movie was a pleasant surprise and thus I will give The Legend of Tarzan an 8/10.

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