How do you go about creating a new version of a story that has been so overdone and redone and rebooted as Tarzan? Well, this isn’t quite the right approach, though not nearly as bad as what has happened to Superman or Spider-Man up till now.
So what does it have going for it? Well, yes, first and foremost Alexander Skarsgård (The Giver) nearly naked half the film is probably one of the great draws. And pretty he is, but pretty cannot carry a film. Margot Robbie is definitely another plus. Her crisp voice and demeanor almost steal the show, though not nearly as dominating as her performance in Suicide Squad; impressive given the role she was handed.
Going against it are some weaker performances and a thin and unengaging script. Samuel L. Jackson (Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children) probably was kicking himself for taking such a part. He’s fine in it, but it is border-line insulting and with no real meat to it. And Christoph Waltz (Spectre) is neither crazy enough, funny enough, tragic enough, nor powerful enough to have the impact the part required.
But most of the weaknesses of this tale are in the script. Trying to retell the story through reflective flashbacks was clever, but never allowed the emotion to build nor our investment in Tarzan/Greystoke himself. If we aren’t invested in him and his African families (human and non) the rest of the story is just for the pictures. There is some power in the movie in its look at colonialism, but that was also not a strong enough theme to support it all. Even the attempts at humor, few as they were, fell mostly flat.
Most people could skip this film and not have their lives diminished. However, for Robbie and, depending on your tastes, Skarsgård you might find enough to make it interesting.