Published Jun 30, 2016No matter how many shots of Margot Robbie in soaking wet clothes, or rippling muscles on Alexander Skarsgård's stomach, or scenes of the two playing "What's that mating call?" director David Yates and company throw at us, there's really no way to sexy up the story of Tarzan in the 21st century.
The character is strongly rooted in classic cinema, having appeared in over 200 titles to date (most of which were pre-1960s). His origin story is implicitly colonial and offensive, to boot: a young white boy of noble lineage is raised by apes in Africa, learns to live with the "savage" beasts and becomes king of the jungle.
The Legend of Tarzan, the character's latest silver screen reboot, tries to reinvent the wheel, but fails miserably, packing a huge load of bullshit into its hour-and-49-minute runtime.
Don't let the steamy posters fool you: The Legend of Tarzan is light on romance and heavy on violence, one-liners from Samuel L. Jackson that sound like a PG-13 version of Pulp Fiction and scenes involving Skarsgård staring blankly and/or flexing every muscle on his masculine frame. It's all fairly vapid, and does nothing to cover up the story's shortcomings and clunky attempts to make some sort of statement about white guilt.
First major flub: The Legend of Tarzan starts off like it's a sequel to a well-known franchise most moviegoers know and love, and not based around an outdated archetype. Set some years after Tarzan and Jane (Robbie) come back to the UK, the pair returns to Africa to investigate reports of illegal mining operations and slavery. The man at the heart of both is Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). With George Washington Williams (Jackson) at Tarzan's side, along with a gaggle of former African friends he meets along the way, he tries to restore order to the continent.
For a film that reimagines Tarzan as being anti-imperialist, the film still falls into the same old "white saviour" tropes his character carries with him. (Although a number of black characters help him along his journey, fairly few have names or defining traits; the amount of bro grabs Tarzan does is similarly idiotic.)
The Legend of Tarzan tries to say something profound, but somehow misses the fact that its main character is the embodiment of everything it's supposedly rallying against.