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Byron Shire
May 11, 2021

Cinema Review: The Legend of Tarzan

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The best thing about this movie comes near the end when millions of wildebeest, so long the hapless prey of hungry carnivores, get to have their moment of glory. In a thundering stampede, they ransack the coastal town of Bom, where slave-traders and other bad guys are taking their tea in the sun. The second best thing is when Christoph Waltz, that scene-gobbling show-off, is eaten by crocodiles. This happens at the same time as a boat that Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) is on gets blown to smithereens, only for the Ape Man to emerge with what used to be known in the old cowboy flicks as a mere ‘flesh wound’. John Clayton (aka Tarzan) has been persuaded to return to Africa from his digs in Belgravia to sort out a problem that the Brits are having in the Congo with Belgium’s King Leopold. Jane (Margo Robbie) insists on going with him, as does George Washington Williams (Samuel L Jackson), representing the Great Republic. The screenplay, which includes a chief who wants to take revenge on T because T killed his son (fair enough, I would have thought), and Waltz doing his mental Nazi thing as Leopold’s empire builder, might have been lifted directly from a comic book, so breathless and shallow is it.

The CGI is impressive at times – I loved the bit where T is reacquainted with the lions he once knew, but was disappointed to see the gorillas, which too often looked like blokes in hairy suits, portrayed as aggressive, predatory creatures – but the cartoonish realism feels too camp for the subject, and the fights, of which there are numerous, are ridiculous. Skarsgård certainly has the torso for the part, but he is as charismatic as a carved broom and cannot hold a candle to the great Johnny Weismuller, Robbie is excellent at being little more than a beautiful damsel in distress with a hint of new-age girl power about her, and Jackson, ever the cool dude, gives Waltz a run for his money in the limelighting stakes. Strictly for kids.

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