Saturday, July 2, 2016

In Theatres: The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

13 years ago, Warner Bros. tried a Tarzan TV series set in present-day New York. It bombed, badly.

Now comes "The Legend of Tarzan", which tries to recapture the spirit of earlier feature films, dating back to at least the 50's, when the Weintraub family obtained the film rights, and amended the ape-man's language to proper English, in the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels.

"Legend" begins in late 19th century London, where John Clayton III, or, Lord Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood), is a titled nobleman who has been invited to return to the Congo by King Leopold of Belgium. At first, Clayton is reluctant, but American George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) persuades him when he tells of slavery and other nasty goings-on. Clayton brings along his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), for the return to Africa, and the couple are greeted with open arms. However, the celebration ends early when captain Leon Rom (Christopf Waltz, "Spectre") shows up, and captures the Claytons, killing a tribal leader in the process.

There are flashbacks that recall Tarzan & Jane's earlier days in Africa, and the fact that a rival monarch (Djimoun Hounsou) wants Tarzan dead in retaliation for Tarzan killing his son years before, if but because the lad had slain Tarzan's adoptive ape mother, Kala. Suffice to say, a lot of issues are settled in due course.

Skarsgard plays Clayton/Tarzan as being more of a reluctant hero returning to the land where he spent his formative years, and it takes time before he finally, ah, warms up. I kept expecting Jackson to break character and ask someone, "What's in your wallet?". One critic complained that Margot Robbie, to be seen next in "Suicide Squad", was underused. No, she wasn't. Apparently, said critic hadn't seen enough Tarzan movies over the years to know better.

Fresh trailers included:

"Sully" (September 9): Clint Eastwood's bio of Navy Captain Chesley Sullenberger's "Miracle on the Hudson" is already getting bad press two months before release for over-dramatizing the story. Tom Hanks stars.

"Bleed Like This": Miles Teller tries to rebound from last year's farcical reboot of "Fantastic Four" by top-lining the bio of 80's boxer Vinny Pazienza.

"Ice Age: Collision Course" (July 22): Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and company return for the latest installment in the series.

"The Light Between The Oceans": Michael Fassbender ("X-Men Apocalypse") stars in this fact-based drama about a couple who find a baby lost at sea.

Here's the trailer for "The Legend of Tarzan":

Rating: C+.

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