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TARZAN BEGINS AGAIN IN THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

Sam Jackson watches Tarzan run, and run some more
Edgar Rice Burroughs' second TARZAN novel was THE RETURN OF TARZAN, and while this movie, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, is in no way inspired by or based upon that particular title, the same template exists: We all know about the Lord of the Jungle and since this is basically a comeback for the iconic character, why not start out with his need to... to quote The Beatles... "Get back to where [he] once belonged"?

But Tarzan, holed up in his British Estate and going by his born name, John Clayton, doesn't quite feel the jungle-fever as much as his wife, Jane, played by the extremely beautiful Margot Robie, who wants her old life in Africa back, and so her persuasiveness has to make up for Alexander Skarsgård's lack of emotion, or any pulse. Along for the ride (and to further help the wooden lead) is a token comic relief in Samuel L. Jackson, working for President Harrison to thwart a possible slave trade going on while speaking in a modern jive that doesn't fit the 1800's...

It's a cool cover, so why not show it
Well that's just nitpicking – the main problem with this LEGEND is how closely each of the good parts are locked into a guilt-driven thing connected to it. For instance, after Tarzan leaps from limb to limb and winds up on a fast-moving train, a second later it's revealed that the train is full of slaves, deleting momentum for the necessary action, which could move the story forward without being hindered by perpetual pathos. Then, later on, Jackson – who had proved moons ago how great a monologue-spouter he is – has a genuinely personal moment sharing about his stint in the Civil War, and then fighting for money in Mexico and ending up with the line (p.p.): "But we sure were bad to the Indians." In this aspect, everything is so tethered to a wrongdoing of (mostly American) history, there's little room left for a story that's supposed to take us out of history and into... the damn movie theater!

That Frank fella could really make a cover
Meanwhile, as Jane's held hostage by the villain, Leon Rom played by another Tarantino regular, Christoph Waltz, going through his usual snarky routine only more venomous than finicky, she keeps repeating... in so many words... how good she is, and how bad he is; how strong her husband is, and how much of a wuss he is. Any and all character-development seems to be replaced with dialogue that make the audience boo or cheer for one person or the other. Most of the African natives have cool, contented expressions that say: "We're above all this vapid racism... One day things will be better," making otherwise vulnerable, innocent people hard to truly feel for... as the story is concerned. And a cliché, overused cinematic final-act-device of the hero's loved-one being kidnapped... always leading to a daring rescue to close the show... occurs in the beginning: giving the entire movie a rushed vibe and at the same time, with more than a fair share of quick battles (all overly CGI'd), it feels like an extremely long runtime...

SCORE: **1/2
But TARZAN fans, don't fret. This is a scathing review of a movie that isn't altogether horrible or worthless. Like THE AVENGERS, the plot/problem is basic and semi-involving... Africa is being exploited for her diamonds and enslaved like America was while a man's lovely wife may be killed in the process... giving the shirtless hunk a straightforward task and with that, this TARZAN provides enough high octane eye-candy for two or three films put together. Yet the real story (or rather, backstory) exists with flashbacks more fulfilling than what's playing out before us and, while these glimpses are straight from Burroughs' source material, that's no shock. But only if things moved forward without so much looking back, concerning either the characters or mankind in general, there'd  be a lot more for the audience to get INTO than the writers forcing us to get something OUT OF the entire experience. C'mon guys, Burroughs was king of what Sam Jackson's truly famous for: PULP FICTION. Deep but fun; fast moving, energetic and not preachy. So next time, perhaps lighten up... just a bit.
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