Movie Review: “The Legend of Tarzan” – Soulless

Written by Matt Butler August 04, 2016

the-legend-of-tarzan-official-trailer-2-14955-largeThe Legend of Tarzan is about as dull as its colour scheme. Not since Man of Steel have I seen such a popular icon so bereft of vitality and appeal. How is that even possible? A movie about Tarzan, the embodiment of the missing link between man and ape, is boring?

I should make clear that boredom, in the case of Legend of Tarzan, means a sheer lack of intrigue. It’s what separates this from other films I’ve labeled as boring, like last year’s economic dramedy, The Big Short. In that case, it was a rapid series of information that I was indifferent to and confused by, but at the very least, I understood the point of it all. It was an informative offbeat comedy about one of the most devastating periods for the global economy. What’s the point of The Legend of Tarzan? According to director David Yates, it’s the political update that the classic story needs, and for leading man, Alexander Skarsgård, it’s an intriguing new angle on the character.  And they’re right, they are absolutely right. You can’t unearth Tarzan in all his Edgar Rice Burroughs and Johnny Weissmuller glory and expect it to swing with today’s audiences. But you do need to bridge the gap.


The trouble with The Legend of Tarzan is that in makes this enormous leap in Tarzan’s mythology, turning him from the gatekeeper between man and ape to a distinguished London sophisticate, it seems to forget Tarzan’s mythology altogether. The premise is that Tarzan, after years of living with Jane Porter (Margot Robbie) in London, England, is called back to his homeland in the Congo when he’s told its people are being enslaved for diamond mining.


My face while watching The Legend of Tarzan.

Yates clearly expects a great deal from his audience (and all power to that, we all love a good challenge once in a while), but doesn’t offer much as a reward. What do I mean? Well, the sour part of it is, no one seems to be having any fun in this movie. Everyone looks like they just want to go home, and I’m not just talking about the slaves, though they seem particularly indifferent to their situation throughout the film. There’s a notable stillness to everyone’s performance, a lack of external emotion. Look no further than Skarsgård for the most noticeable case of this. Skarsgård’s Tarzan has the facial expressiveness of a tree -wait, no, a tree still suggests life- the facial expressiveness of a sheet of sandpaper. From start to finish, Tarzan is indifferent to everything happening around him, from returning to his homeland, the kidnapping of his wife, to throwing a man to his death by crocodiles, Tarzan just doesn’t give a crap, and as a consequence, neither do I.


I could poke at the hokey visual effects, the sloppy editing and poor obscuration of the action (that Tarzan vs. Ape scene in the trailer lasts for less than a minute, with Tarzan getting beat like a chump), but what drains The Legend of Tarzan most is its denial of levity. There’s never a moment of anxiety for Tarzan, the apes, the jungle, or even the slaves, because we’re not given an atmosphere in which to appreciate any of them. Even the most simple visuals of vine-swinging and cliff jumping are dried up by the film’s misplaced intention to be taken seriously. The Legend of Tarzan has its mind in the right place (I guess), but it seems to be missing any signs of a heart.

My Rating: 2/10


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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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