Monday, July 4, 2016

Summer Cinema: The Legend of Tarzan

In a summer of sequel-itis and many titles lacking that "must see" factor, The Legend of Tarzan was not very high on my list. I haven't seen much of Alexander Skarsgard's work and the first trailer was beyond meh with CGI apes and blah blah blah. But I'm a fan of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, Skarsgard's late show promotional appearances have been endearing and word of mouth has been surprisingly positive. So on Saturday night we took in a 3D Extreme Digital screening next door along with a few adult beverages. The film puts Skarsgard's John Clayton/Tarzan in aristocratic England ten years after after leaving the jungle, being invited back to the Congo for some political, promotional something or other. Along for the ride is American southerner George Washington Williams (a scene stealing Samuel L. Jackson), Margot Robbie as the not quite helpless damsel in distress Jane, Christolph Waltz is the baddie Leon Rom while Djimon Hounsou pops up as Chief Mbonga.

Overall, I quite enjoyed The Legend of Tarzan as a big adventure flick with a surprising amount of humor and excellent chemistry between Skarsgard and Jackson. Jackson has the best and most random line of the film when he describes the trek to the Congo as being a guaranteed political and personal home run as "ham sandwich, easily". Add that one to the ol' Dammaged Goods response library...The CGI is obvious but somehow works as elements are put together in layers versus just watching a hyper and shiny video game. The apes don't look too shabby and sequences running on branches and swinging from vines are exciting. There's a sense of The Mummy in the flick, as in being an old fashioned and enjoyable adventure tale with decent amounts of character depth juxtaposed with big action sequences where animals charge, boats sink and the like. Skarsgard is solid as the brooding Englishman who strips off his shirt to rekindle the inner beast when his beloved Jane is put in danger. Robbie infuses her performance with warmth and spunk while looking like a new age Jamie Pressley.

The allegedly $180 million movie has been in development for some time but I feel the advertising campaign from Warner Brothers left a lot to be desired. I can't recall seeing much for the film before the first trailer and opening weekend was tracking for a soft $30 some million opening. Luckily the picture received an A- CinemaScore and is over performing, taking in $45 million for the holiday weekend. I don't think this will warrant a sequel but I'm glad the film found an audience and will probably do well overseas. Skarsgard put in 9 months of eating and training to be Tarzan ready and while watching I thought he'd make an excellent He-Man in the film that will never get made.

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