'The Legend of Tarzan' Is Flashy but Needs to Be Better

What to expect from this summer blockbuster.

— -- Rated - PG-13

Two out of five stars.

Um, yeah. About all that.

Fortunately, we’re not subjected for too long to Tarzan’s backstory. We meet him as John Clayton, national hero and celebrity once known as Tarzan. King Leopold, who’s driven his country into a debt crisis over its investment in the Congo, invites Clayton to go there. When Clayton declines, Civil War hero George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) convinces John it’s his moral obligation to accept. He suspects Leopold is using slaves to develop the Congo, many of whom could be Clayton’s friends. In case you don’t get it, the invitation is a trap.

Like Robbie, Yates has certainly done great work, particularly with the four "Harry Potter" movies he directed. But here, he either gave his actors bad direction, or not enough. Given that Waltz and Jackson are pretty much exactly as they are in other films, I think he didn’t give them enough.

Five years ago, the CGI of apes and other animals would’ve been a bit more impressive, but here it’s dwarfed by the natural beauty captured by cinematographer Henry Graham, who does great work when computer generated effects and overzealous color-grading aren’t sullying his beautifully composed shots.

As Tarzan, Skarsgård does well with what he’s given but, on a few occasions, I found myself laughing when he seemed to strike Derek Zoolander’s Blue Steel pose. Did Yates tell him to do that? I don’t know.

What I do know is "The Legend of Tarzan" needs to be a much better movie, considering there was virtually no one asking to see another film about a character that, popular as he once was, hasn’t been part of our cultural conversation for decades.