Since the movie was released on DVD in France on the 9th of November, we offer you the opportunity to (re)discover our review of David Yates’s latest film The Legend of Tarzan. It is an adventure movie which was a priori really promising but which is, in fact, rather disappointing.
After he brilliantly adapted the last four volumes of the Harry Potter saga, David Yates tackles another classic of children’s literature: Tarzan. The initial promise was very tempting: this new film is not really another remake of the adventures of the man who grew up in the jungle but a sequel.
So, the spectators catch up with Tarzan (played by Alexander Skarsgard) as he lives in an elegant manor house in late 19th century England. Eight years after he left Africa, he is now married to Jane (Margot Robbie) and he has inherited a title from his parents who died when he was only an infant who was then adopted by gorillas. Thus, Lord Greystoke, as he is now called, lives a very conventional life until the day he is invited to travel to Congo which was then a new Belgian settlement. It is actually a trap set by Leon Rom (Christoph Walz). Indeed, this emissary sent by the King of Belgium plans to hand Tarzan over to a tribal chief who wants him dead in exchange for diamonds would allow him to raise an army of mercenaries in order to maintain the Belgian domination over Congo. In the meantime, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a Civil War veteran, asks the former wild child to take advantage of this journey to help him prove that the Westerners enslave African people.
A rather deceiving movie
David Yates uses loads of computer generated pictures to plunge us at the heart of the African Savannah but, although the 3D wild animals are highly realistic, the movie as a whole is not really convincing. In fact, the jungle and its atmosphere seem strange and improbable, as if they were out of an old science-fiction film. There are also a few inaccuracies in the scenario. Tarzan’s past is thus told through numerous flashbacks showing his memories. Unfortunately, the moments he remembers are not always linked to what he is experiencing in the present and this is very disturbing for the spectators.
Moreover, the actors’ performances do not compensate these imperfections. Even if Samuel L. Jackson is pretty convincing as an intellectual who loves firearms and Christoph Walz is definitely very at ease as a bad guy whom we love to hate; there seems to be no real artistic path in Alexander Skarsgard’s acting. He is obviously physically massive and impressive and this corresponds to what we can expect from a man who grew up in the jungle and yet, he plays a Tarzan who is too taciturn for a former wild child who would have managed to adapt to the western way of life but too affable for someone who feels that he does not belong in the British society.
A weak criticism of colonialism
Like many other American movies, such as, for instance, Django Unchained; in this new version of the adventures of Tarzan, a historical subtext underlies beyond the entertaining aspect of the film. Yet, David Yates’s work is extremely different from Quentin Tarantino’s brutal directing which enables his film to transcend the eras and to lead us to question the way we deal with racial issues nowadays. Here, by depicting the Belgian settlers as invaders who steal the human and material resources of Congo, David Yates denounces colonialism. Nevertheless, this condemnation loses of its strength because the film shows a sort of caricature of 19th century Africa. The continent is described as peopled by primitive and savage tribes who live in the middle of the jungle and sparkled with a few cities inhabited by rich Westerners who walk crocodiles in leashes. Furthermore, the question of decolonization is never tackled. So, this moral is, like the rest of the movie, pretty disappointing.
The Legend of Tarzan, David Yates, USA, 2016, 1h50, released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the United States of America on the 26th of October 2016 and in France on the 9th of November 2016.