Plot: What’s it about?
I doubt many expect The Legend of Tarzan to walk away with over $100 million at the Domestic Box Office. While there have been far bigger hits in recent years, this seemed like it would bomb big time. The title character played by Alexander Skarsgard is hardly a box office draw, but clearly audiences were attracted to something. Maybe it’s the brand name, the selling of a familiar product. In this case Tarzan, but the presence of Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz certainly didn’t hurt. I think overall the film is something of a mixed bag, but I feel future films will benefit now that the origin story is out of the way. Time will tell for that, but let’s take a look at the film at hand, shall we?
The film begins with Leon Rom (Waltz) and his crew on a search for diamonds for King Leopold. Trouble begins when Rom and his team are ambushed, with only Rom surviving the attack. Rom is spared when a tribal chief named Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) makes a deal with Rom. He offers him the diamonds in exchange for Tarzan. We then get to our title character who’s also known as John Clayton III. Tarzan is invited to visit Boma and report on the development and sort of be the face for them, but declines. It isn’t until George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) tells him what’s really going on and persuades him to make the journey. Williams tells him that the Belgians are enslaving the Congolese. That’s more than enough plot to carry the film, but we get so bogged down with flashbacks as well as Tarzan and Jane’s story as well. Margot Robbie plays Jane, and she has some fun with the role, but the pacing is the issue here. I think if the film had given us the condensed bits of the origin story as the film began then we wouldn’t have to have the story interrupted by it so often. That isn’t to say the film is without charm. Waltz does great work here as the villain and the action sequences can be exciting. I also enjoyed the jabs of humor sprinkled throughout this outing. It’s nice to see a film of this sort not take itself so seriously. I was reminded a bit of Hercules with Dwayne Johnson from a couple of years ago. The one thing here, however is Skarsgard in the lead. It’s not that he’s bad, but he just doesn’t have quite the charisma that’s required for this sort of role. Johnson is part of what madeHercules (and a number of his films, for that matter) work so well. Still, if you can get past the sluggish pacing, there’s some fun to be had here. Just keep expectations moderate.
Video: How’s it look?
This seems, to me, to be a title tailor-made for Ultra HD. It’s got a little bit of everything, but as we might expect the vast majority of it takes place in the dense jungle. I really couldn’t see an instance in which the image was compromised. The sheer magnitude of the trees, the mist and even the CGI animals made for a fascinating-looking image. Flesh tones, namely those of Margot Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard, look on the level (then again we shouldn’t judge our personal levels of beauty based on these two – we’ll come up short every time), detail was amazing and the increase color depth of the UHD really gave more of a sense of depth. And I did compare selected scenes to the included Blu-ray (by no means all that inferior) as well. Suffice its to say that the 2.40:1 HD image is nearly as good-looking as it gets.
Audio: How’s it sound?
If the howling monkeys, growl of the gorillas and other assorted animals don’t have your neck turning, I’m guessing nothing will. The included Dolby Atmos mix (and downgraded TrueHD mix) adds a layer of “lifelike” action to the film and it works here – on many levels. Vocals, for lack of a better word, are rich and pure and the atmospheric essence of the soundtrack has several opportunities to shine. I’m still getting used to (as in “spoiled”) to these with the Atmos soundtracks and it really is a different experience than the standard directional effects provided by the TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks. Again, you really can’t go wrong with the way this sounds and it’s worth the price of admission just to immerse yourself in Tarzan’s world.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Tarzan Reborn – Discover how Tarzan has been re-invisioned for a new generation.
- Creating the Virtual Jungle – Watch how a soundstage in London is transformed into the wilds of Africa, filled with elephants, gorillas and lions!
- Battles and Bare-Knuckle Brawls – Ride shotgun with the visual effects and stunt teams as they create the exciting wildebeest rampage, Tarzan vs Akut and more!
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the film remains a mixed bag, but it’s also not the complete dud some might have anticipated. It takes a while to get going, and pacing is never the film’s biggest strength, but there are exciting moments. I enjoyed the touches of humor and Waltz as the villain. It might not be something I need to watch over and over, but it warrants a rental so long as expectations aren’t sky high.