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'The Legend of Tarzan' Reyview: The Ape-Man Swings...And Misses

Nothing legendary about this one
by Rey de la Cruz Jr. | Jul 1, 2016
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If you look at Hollywood's current lineup of movies, it might seem like they're running out of ideas. We've just seen Independence Day: Resurgence, a sequel to something that came out 20 years ago. There's a new all-female version of the Ghostbusters, a well-loved film that first came out in 1984. And now there's The Legend of Tarzan from director David Yates, the latest film adaptation of the famous novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

From the 1920s until today, the silver screen has seen more than 80 versions (you can check it for yourself on IMDB since I lost count when I got to 80 at na-realize kong maiksi ang buhay at sinasayang ko sa pagbibilang kung ilang Tarzan movies na ang lumabas) of the ape-man and that includes the Starzan movies made by our very own screen legends Joey de Leon and the late Rene Requiestas in the '80s.

We've already seen a funny Filipino version; we've seen it as an animated Disney movie. Is this really a story worth revisiting?

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The short answer is NO. But to be fair though, the movie didn't give audiences a reboot. Why bother, right? Everyone knows who Tarzan is and we don't need to spend the first hour of the movie going over his origin story. Instead, this movie finds Tarzan (or John Clayton as he now likes to be called) already married to Jane (played by the beautiful Margot Robbie) and now living in England.

The real story begins when King Leopold II of Belgium sends an expedition to colonize the Congo and harvest diamonds at the expense of the inhabitants.

Tarzan ditches the loincloth and finally
learns how to wear pants for this one

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The British government with the help of real life-African American activist George Washington Williams (played by Samuel L. Jackson) prods Tarzan, the favorite son of Africa, to come back to the jungle and investigate the injustices that the Congolese people are suffering at the hands of Leopold's henchman Leon Rom (played by Christoph Waltz). Like all Tarzan movies, the villains manage to kidnap Jane and it's up to Tarzan to save her as he howls and swings on vines. How Tarzan became the "Ape-man" that he is and how he met Jane is told in intermittent flashbacks.

Seeing Margot Robbie is probably
the best thing about the movie

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However, for a movie about Tarzan, it's strangely lacking in Tarzan. The eponymous role in this version is played Alexander Skarsgård, and although he certainly looks the part, he was probably only given less than a page of dialogue in the movie. And since the filmmakers decided to not make this into an origin film, we barely know anything about Tarzan aside from the things that we already know about him even before going into the cinemas.

Yes, Tarzan was raised by apes.

Yes, he can communicate with animals.

But who is he really?

Nakakatawa ba siyang tao? Does he see himself more as a man or an animal? Kumakain rin ba siya ng kuto na parang unggoy? Kung oo, inuulam ba niya sa kanin?


Those are the little things that would've really help us understand who he is. Instead, we're given a man whose sole objective is to swing from vine to vine in order to save his wife. He literally does nothing else in this movie. It's exactly what you'll get sa Taken 4 kung may magkakamali ulit na kumidnap sa anak ni Liam Neeson at dinala sa gubat.

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Sorry, Christoph Waltz, but you're not
winning an Oscar for this one

Every great hero needs a formidable villain. And the bad guy in this movie is Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, a two-time Academy Award winner. But you'll never guess that from watching this movie alone. The guy is a great actor and as SS officer Hans Landa in the movie Inglourious Basterds, he gave us one of the best onscreen antagonists of all-time. But sadly, he doesn't have much to work with here. Aside from the fact that he's on a mission from the monarchy of Belgium and he rocks a well-manicured mustache that will make '90s Lito Lapid jealous, we don't know squat about him.

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Basically, it's Tarzan the ape-man, who can literally break necks in half if he wanted to, against a middle-aged white man in a fedora. Not much of a match-up, right?

Samuel L. Jackson's face says it all: he can't
believe he agreed to be in this movie

My belief is that if you can't be a good movie, at least be an entertaining one. And for a tent-pole film, The Legend of Tarzan just isn't fun to watch. The CGI scenes are nice, but audiences have seen a better rendition of the exact same things earlier this year in Disney's The Jungle Book. Since both movies share the same setting, you can't avoid but compare the two of them.

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Don't get me wrong, the CGI animals in The Legend of Tarzan look good but it's something we've seen countless times before. There's a scene in The Legend of Tarzan where the colonists shoot the animals and although it's supposed to be an emotional scene, it just feels like you're watching someone shoot monsters in a video game. On the other hand, the animals in The Jungle Book looked and felt real. Tarzan doesn't really build up to anything and the climactic sequence don''t really get your blood flowing. You might find yourself surprised when you realize that the movie is over when nothing really major has happened yet—and you're left asking: "Yun na yun?"

5/10. It's not terrible, although it's also not very good. Ultimately the problem is that it's forgettable. You're probably going to forget all about it in a week. Sa totoo lang, mas may chance pang maalala mo yung masarap na kinain mo for lunch last Tuesday. Watch it if you don't have anything better to do and you really have to kill two hours of your time.

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Rey de la Cruz Jr. likes talking about films as much as he likes watching them. He runs, a site that provides Filipino moviegoers with reviews written in a voice that is uniquely Pinoy.

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