I have to say; I think a critical error has been made
A recently released film has had a traumatic birth. Wildly taken-against from the start, accusations of pointless and unwelcome rehashing of previous films, offensive stereotyping, miscasting and dodgy digital effects have cluttered the webisphere.
I saw it last night and am left feeling utterly mystified. Not by the film itself, which we all gave a ten-out-ten, but the attitudes of people who surely go into a film with minds already made up and a grim determination to tear what is intended as a fun experience to bloody pieces.
I’m not talking about the fan tirade against the latest Ghostbusters, which seems to be happily entertaining audiences despite it all (see Jamas's review here: http://jamasenright.blogspot.co.nz/2016/07/ghostbusterers.html)- but the critical lambasting of The Legend of Tarzan.
Really, film critics - what IS your problem?
|Tarzan and friends about to bring a whole herd of trouble down on the slave traders army.|
I know we seem to live in a world where to be interesting a literary hero apparently has to be a black clad, gravel voiced psychopath. And CGI-ed violence apparently needs to distract an attention-deficited audience from their texting every other scene, but some of us still want a wholesome movie experience.
And The Legend of Tarzan is certainly that. The intention of the film studio might be a cynical franchise building one, but the suits seem to have dropped that ball and somehow delivered a great night out for it’s own sake instead. Which surely should be the point of a film about a man raised by apes.
|Samuel L Jackson plays real-life figure George Washington Williams|
The easy bulls-eyes this character has to wear have been addressed - the out-dated white saviour themes are rebalanced largely by a great performance from Samuel L Jackson and meaningful roles for the many African characters, our female lead is certainly no damsel in distress and animal cruelty is completely removed by removing animals. The apes possibly fall under some digital effects scrutiny for knuckling through the uncanny valley - coming to close to ourselves and suffering from comparison with real humans. But the other wildlife is beautifully realised - particularly in a surprising encounter with a pride of lions.
Surprise is a key word in this film. The plot may be linear and coherent, but like the many twists the jungle river which the villains must navigate takes, nothing ever feels predictable.
What is unsurprising is that the cast ‘get it done’.
Alexander Skarsgard brings an enigmatic magnetism to John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, and an undeniable physical presence despite being no where near the steroid-engorged grotesquerie which contemporary Hollywood seems to demand of its heroes. This is not an 'origin story', thank goodness, and so both actor and character have a mighty reputation to live up to when he returns to Africa. Despite a shaky start, Tarzan’s legend is fulfilled.
Jane Clayton is easily just as heroic and at home in the dark continent as her husband, without once again falling into improbable contemporary female tropes. She is brought to life by the impossibly beautiful Margot Robbie, also about to play Harley Quinn, in DC Apologists last great hope: Suicide Squad. Good luck to you chaps - your heroes have let you down so maybe the villains will do better.
In a year where cinema royally afflecked-up a promising depiction of my favourite old-fashioned, pure-of-heart hero I’m enormously relieved to see the Lord of the Jungle done properly.
If you want an old-fashioned adventure where good triumphs, you can tell your heroes from your villains, your heroine is brave and resourceful - and friendship, honour and animals save the day - ignore the critics and grab a vine.
I gave this film a ten not because it is a perfect film - but because it was a perfectly entertaining movie experience.