Sunday, February 25, 2018
Things To Do

Review: 'The Legend of Tarzan' will leave you feeling Cheetah'd

Him Tarzan, me disappointed. Could things turn out any other way for The Legend of Tarzan? The lord of the jungle is a century-old superhero as invented by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and an early template for Hollywood's insensitive racial and gender representations. Not to mention the occasional animal cruelty.

Filmmakers simply can't make Tarzan like they used to. If someone tries, like director David Yates did with The Legend of Tarzan, he's just another superhero, swinging on vines rather than spider webs. Natives can't be restless. Lions won't be wrestled.

Tarzan fans leave feeling Cheetah'd.

These issues could easily be overcome, if Alexander Skarsgard were allowed to bare his teeth and spill some true blood. This isn't a take-charge Tarzan commanding respect and wildlife; he's an elephant whisperer with downcast eyes. Skarsgard's charisma rests entirely in his sculpted abdomen, which doesn't register since his Tarzan stays dressed most of the time. (No loincloth, sorry.)

The plot is far too busy for summer movie pleasure, crowding out ideas that could've been entertaining. Belgium's king wants sacred diamonds from the Congo in 1898, and England is assisting. Tarzan is the ape man in the middle, familiar with the jungle territory and a Parliament member as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. He'll negotiate.

Ah, but this is merely a way for Belgian schemer Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to deliver Tarzan to King Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou), who wants him killed for reasons we'll get around to. There are also abandonment issues with Tarzan's ape half-brother, plus the obligatory origins material, although thoughtfully scattered throughout.

Then there's Jane (Margot Robbie), who certainly isn't a damsel in distress but isn't much else. Jane and Tarzan are married, and she insists upon joining his journey home, eventually falling into Rom's clutches. But not before being seduced by Tarzan's mimicked mating calls into a little oh-ee-oh-ee-oh.

Let's also mention Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams, a U.S. emissary tagging along with Tarzan to ensure Congolese citizens aren't being enslaved. Of course they are, bringing out George's marksman skills. (A lot of people are gunned down in this movie.)

See The Legend of Tarzan if you must, then consider what could've been done differently with these characters. Why don't we get a scene of Congo natives interacting with George, curious about a black man of obvious means in 1898? Certainly Waltz deserves a role written more dastardly. We could also use an early scene in London, of Tarzan's instincts being kept in check. Skarsgard keeps him tame too long.

If you have sexy stars like Skarsgard and Robbie, give them a memorable vine-swinging sequence like Lois Lane and Superman (as long as you're imitating other movies). Or here's a novel idea: Make Tarzan dependant upon Jane for a change. A preceding trailer for Suicide Squad shows Robbie is ready for action.

Yates manages a couple of impressive animal stampedes; ostriches for comic effect and an CGI jungle menagerie for thrills. Tarzan's brawl with his ape half-brother makes good use of Planet of the Apes motion capture technology. Again, the best parts of The Legend of Tarzan are transparently sourced from somewhere else.

Then again, Burroughs long ago created the enduring fantasy of superhuman abilities fighting for right in surroundings that stir imagination. He's Tarzan, we're grateful, and disappointed this movie didn't turn out better.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
Orchestra explores spirit of Florida and the U.S. with ‘Triptych’ and ‘New World’ Symphony

Orchestra explores spirit of Florida and the U.S. with ‘Triptych’ and ‘New World’ Symphony

ST. PETERSBURG — One of the more important programs in the Florida Orchestra’s season combined Antonin Dvorak’s best known symphony with the debut of a major commission. Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, better known as the "New World," reaches to the roots o...
Published: 02/24/18
Rotary prepares for annual ‘Wild Game Night’ in Plant City

Rotary prepares for annual ‘Wild Game Night’ in Plant City

PLANT CITY — The Rotary Club of Brandon will host a Wild Game Night at 6 p.m. on Friday (March 2) on Lupton’s Boggy Bottom Ranch, 8407 Lupton Place in Plant City. This is an annual stag-only event with $100 donations to benefit local charities.This i...
Published: 02/23/18
Updated: 02/24/18
Some ideas for things to do outside in spring

Some ideas for things to do outside in spring

Published: 02/23/18
Annihilation' is strange, beautiful biological mystery

Annihilation' is strange, beautiful biological mystery

Published: 02/23/18
SoundBytes: The Shadowboxers, Lit, O-Town, Saba, Wolfgang Gartner and more

SoundBytes: The Shadowboxers, Lit, O-Town, Saba, Wolfgang Gartner and more

— The Shadowboxers will open for their mentor Justin Timberlake on May 15 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. You might remember the pop-rock group from their several performances around the 2017 College Football Playoff national championship game in Tam...
Published: 02/23/18
Top things to do on Friday

Top things to do on Friday

Here are our editors picks for things to do on Feb. 23.
Published: 02/23/18
Your 4-year-old daughter could land a role in ‘Waitress’ at the Straz

Your 4-year-old daughter could land a role in ‘Waitress’ at the Straz

TAMPA — Could your 4-year-old be the next Lulu? A touring Broadway show wants to find out. Waitress, which runs April 24-29 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, is looking for a local 4- to 5-year old to play a small but c...
Published: 02/23/18
Top things to do on Friday, Feb. 23

Top things to do on Friday, Feb. 23

Blast Friday: The Romantics: The family-friendly food and craft vendor festival featuring a free live concert and a beer garden. 5:30 p.m., 400 Block of Cleveland Street, Osceola Avenue and Cleveland Street, Clearwater. Free. (727) 464-7200. Pasco C...
Published: 02/23/18
What to watch this weekend: ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Good Girls,’ catch up on ‘Heathers’ and ‘Jessica Jones’

What to watch this weekend: ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Good Girls,’ catch up on ‘Heathers’ and ‘Jessica Jones’

Nude zombie alert: The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead isn't slowing down anytime soon. The hit zombie series returns for the second half of its eighth season Sunday and AMC recently announced it was renewed for a ninth. In this season's first eight epi...
Published: 02/23/18
The Florida Orchestra taps composer Michael Ippolito to capture the state’s sound

The Florida Orchestra taps composer Michael Ippolito to capture the state’s sound

ST. PETERSBURG — The composer sat in semi-darkness, his hand drifting like a slow pendulum at his side. On the Mahaffey Theater stage, the violins led a creaking and mysterious journey through a cypress swamp, the inspiration for the first movement.T...
Published: 02/23/18