“The Legend of Tarzan” arrives in theaters this Friday but it seems that the David Yates-directed film is off to a wild start. Starring Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, the new and updated story of the Edgar Rice Burroughs-created character sees Tarzan return to his former home in the jungle after living in London for nearly a decade.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich gave the film a D+, writing in his review, “By turning Tarzan into just another superhero, David Yates’ blockbuster origin story wastes one of literature’s great wild men.” He adds that “Tarzan is a monumental bore” and that Robbie’s talents are wasted. “As nice as it is that the character has been updated for the 21st Century, the way this film uses her is decidedly archaic.”
Peter Debruge of Variety calls the film, “a talky and mostly turgid attempt by British director David Yates to build on the epic vision he brought to the final four Harry Potter movies via another beloved literary hero.” He notes that the the visual effects are astonishingly subpar and that the creative team tries to distract viewers from the poor quality by using sights of the African savannah and Skarsgård’s abs. “Whenever Tarzan shares the screen with animals, however, the critters look appallingly digital — with human actors not even bothering to look in the right direction much of the time.”
“Committed performances aren’t enough to save this film from uncomfortable colonial optics, uninspiring CGI and tedious plotlines,” says Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian, giving the film two stars out of five. He also calls the picture dull and silly and agrees with Debruge about the CGI animals, “It doesn’t look good. Most of the scenes with computer-generated animals (lions, elephants and especially gorillas) are in the rain or dark or some sort of mist. Instead of inspiring awe, it led me to take off my glasses and check they weren’t smudged.”
But not all critics disliked the film. Deadline’s Pete Hammond was a fan, loving the CGI beasts and the way Tarzan interacted with them. “I really loved Tarzan’s relationship with the animals and with nature, and that comes through so strongly in this version, which is such a handsome-looking Tarzan picture. I’m a sucker for these movies. Give me Tarzan any day of the week.”
“‘The Legend of Tarzan’ isn’t half-bad; actually, it’s pretty good,” writes Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter. “Beautifully made and smartly set at the beginning of Belgian King Leopold II’s rapacious colonization of the Congo in the 1880s, this is certainly the best live-action Tarzan film in many a decade (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much) and offers a well-judged balance of vigorous action and engaging enough drama.”
Glenn Kenny of Roger Ebert gave the film two stars, but overall didn’t mind it. “‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is a pretty good action-adventure movie,” Kenny wrote. “Its narrative is refreshingly free of bloat, folding the Tarzan origin story into a series of relatively pain-free flashbacks that actually dovetail credibly into its contemporary scenario. The lead players, with the exception of the too-familiar Waltz, give appealing performances, and the action scenes are pretty tight.”
“The Legend of Tarzan” swings into theaters on July 1.