Legend of Tarzan Review

Today I had the chance to see the new Legend of Tarzan film, and I must admit to being pretty disappointed by it. Most people will say this is better than Independence Day: Resurgence and they are right but so much of our enjoyment of a film goes down to our expectations. It’s not that I was expecting Tarzan to be great but I was expecting it to be a Tarzan movie.  What do I mean by that? To me a Tarzan movie has a man raised by apes flying through the jungle swinging on vines and falling in love with Jane. With Independence Day: Resurgence I expected a dopey alien movie with destruction and that’s basically what I got. My expectations were not similarly satisfied by Legend of Tarzan.

In fact, we get probably under 5 minutes of Tarzan swinging on vines through the jungle and never once with Jane. In this version of the story he is buttoned up in stiff suits and colors until well into the movie and he is already married to Jane from the beginning.  You get to see a little bit of how they met but never any romantic jaunts through the jungle.  Is that too much to ask in my Tarzan movie?

Instead you get basically a jungle war film. There is a tribal leader played by Djimon Hounsou who has a grudge against Tarzan. . This particular leader guards valuable diamond mines that Christoph Waltz wants to get his hands on.  He makes a deal to lure Tarzan to Hounsou for a trade of diamonds. Jane played by Margot Robbie insists on coming along with Tarzan and ends up getting abducted by Waltz.

Then Tarzan and Samuel L Jackson’s George Washington Williams’ character must save Jane.  There are lots of battles, some of them quite violent.  I wouldn’t recommend it to kids.

Alexander Skarsgard could make a good Tarzan but we literally don’t see him with his shirt off until about 30 minutes into the film and even it’s for purposes of conflict and war.  There’s little to no joy or fun in the picture. Samuel Jackson gets a few laughs but that’s about it.

The movie does look nice and the cast has decent chemistry but it’s just not what you want in a Tarzan movie. And Christoph Waltz isn’t good as the evil Captain Leon Rom.  He must be great in those Tarantino films because every movie I’ve seen him in he’s been very bad. He’s definitely the worst 2 time Oscar winner I’ve ever seen.

The special effects are amazing throughout and I didn’t hate it but it wastes a lot of potential. In a way it kind of reminds me of Man of Steel.  That wasn’t my Superman movie and this isn’t my Tarza movie. I think it is going to be a big bomb for Warner  Brothers and why on earth did they spend $180 million on a dark and gritty Tarzan  movie? It makes no sense.

Overall Grade- C (on the video I gave it a C+ but I’ve changed my mind!)

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Movie 39: Dinosaur

dinosaur posterI knew it would happen.  Eventually a movie would get the dreaded F.  Even a movie that I really didn’t enjoy like Three Cabelleros or The Aristocats I still found things I liked.  Literally the only thing I liked in Dinosaur, Disney’s 39th animated classic, is the music by James Newton Howard.   Everything else really sucks.

Production-

Dinosaur is directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton and it was the first movie for Disney to use all CGI.  At the time it cost $100  million to make and Disney said in the screening kit  “The visual effects will make it an instant classic”

Boy have they not held up.  I hate CGI and these dinosaurs look particularly bad. Honestly they look like their plastic toys from Mcdonalds

Here’s the toy-

mcdaladar1760Here’s the dinosaur from the film-

twidh_0518_dinosaur_500

Take out the backdrop they look the same. In fact I actually think the toy looks better…

The velociraptors look so bad.  It boggles the mind.

valocaraptor
That’s an actual screenshot from the movie. That’s how bad it looks.

VelociraptorsJust as a comparison the velociraptors in Jurassic Park made 7 years earlier in 1993.  It looks so much better-

jurrasic park
Jurassic Park had way better dinosaurs 7 years earlier than this film

Just like Jurassic park there are backgrounds that are real, which is cool at the beginning when it is lush and pretty.  The first 5 minutes was shown in the trailer and it is beautiful if you take out the CGI dinosaurs

The Story-

So the visuals, which were supposed to make it so special, have not held up.  How about the story?

Unfortunately I saw little to like about that either.  It starts out a lot like Tarzan with a Carnotaurus (why not just do  a T-rex. That’s what we all know as the villain of the dinosaurs…) kills a herd of dinosaurs.  An egg is saved and taken by a bird dinosaur (I don’t know all the names sorry!) to an island and it is found by lemurs (although the film refers to them as monkeys).

These lemurs look fine in a photo but the way they move in the movie feels so choppy- like the monkeys in Indiana Jones 4 that look so bad.  It’s kind of amazing when you think about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which blew me away in creating realistic apes.  How far we’ve come (I realize motion capture isn’t exactly the same but still the computer fur and movement looks so much better).

lemursJust like Kala in Tarzan a nice female lemur named Plio decides to raise the baby dinosaur (why not have the male raise the baby dino and the mother resist?  That would be new and different just anything other than the tired story we get). We even get the baby urinating on the male.  Like a bad sitcom with dinosaurs (actually there was a sitcom with dinosaurs and it was much better than this!)

There are friend monkeys just like Tarzan’s friends and one is called Zini and he is unlucky in love but he thinks he’s a smooth talker- never seen that before…

Various things happen and then we get a giant meteor shower that destroys the jungle.  Even this scene looks awful.  The characters look washed out, the explosion looks fake.  Like I said, the music is only thing I like.

So with the land now desolate and ugly they start searching for a new home and find on the other side of the ocean a herd of dinosaurs like Aladar.  You would think when you come across your own species as a dinosaur and you’ve been living with monkeys you’d be pretty excited but not so much.

In the herd we get every cliche.  There’s the love interest, jerk, crony,  wise talker, and everything else.  The big conflict for the rest of the movie is to find the nesting grounds.

dessert

As they march the leader Kron refuses to wait for the weaker dinosaurs.  He’s a Darwinist and believes ‘only the strong prevail and the weaker should be left to die’.  At first I thought this was a joke from the filmmakers.  I mean really?  A movie about dinosaurs is going to tackle Darwinism?

The whole species is basically killed by the sun…

Wouldn’t it make sense to keep the herd strong with as many as possible and not just kill off the weak?  They constantly show these predators out there,  and I think if there was a thinning herd that is good for nobody but this movie isn’t smart enough for that.

And it is all handled in such a preachy and stupid way it really doesn’t matter. Kron is bad.  Aladar is good.  People are thirsty.  They stomp their foot and find water (no joke) and the carotaurus appears sporadically and radically changes sizes throughout the movie.  At one point he is as big as a velociraptor, at others as tall as high mountains.

Part of the problem too is the dinosaurs show no emotion on their faces.  They look exactly the same when they are happy, sad, angry, and everything else and they don’t really have any arms to show emotions.  It makes t all very stale.

The writing is also laughably bad.  I tweeted that Michael Bay and George Lucas must have secretly wrote this script because it sure seems like their type of movie.  We get line stale lines like these:

“What’s happening?”

“My brother’s moving the herd”

“If you ever interfere I will kill you”

“stay away from him”

“Aladar, no.  Just go”

“What’s with you?  At least I know to get out of the rain”

What was this written by 5 year olds at a script convention? Every line explained the obvious like that.  We see he is moving the herd! It’s the twilight school of dinosaur script writing…

Eventually they get to the nesting grounds.  The carotaurus eats Kron and that’s it. 82 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

Movie Review/Conclusion-

This movie sucks.  If you like it great. I don’t get it.  It looks awful.  Almost unwatchable.  The story is stupid and plodding.  The script is laughably bad.

The voice work is fine and the score is very good.

That’s it.

Overall Grade- F

Movie 37: Tarzan

posterSo do you like Phil Collins?

I ask because in the end enjoyment of Tarzan will radically lie whether you like Phil Collins or not.  Also, if you aren’t a big fan of The Lion King style of movie,  I don’t know if you will like Tarzan.

I, however, am a fan of both, so I do like it.  It isn’t perfect but there is a lot to like in Tarzan.

Production-

Released in 1999 it marked the end of the Disney Renaissance and the last film to make a lot of money before the slump of the 2000s (it’s going to be interesting reviewing the next decade).

Directed by Disney  regular Chris Buck and Kevin Lima, Tarzan is adapted from the movie adaptations and novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan and the Apes.

It’s actually the only Tarzan movie I’ve ever seen so I can’t tell you how close it is to any other version.

TARZANFirst of all, the whole movie looks gorgeous.   Tarzan kind of surfs on the trees and the backgrounds zoom in and out and are so lush .  The water scenes look stunning.  If I was just going on visuals it would get an A++++.  I could turn off the sound and just watch it and be entertained.

To create some of the look they actually created a new technology called Deep Canvas which allows 3D painting and you can tell.  It looks great!

The reason why I said it reminded me of the Lion King is they are both very pop influenced films.  We even get the hook structure of pop music from the dramatic beginning with a bold title card just like Lion King.  All of the 5 songs Phil Collins wrote have a pop feel where Lion King did have Be Prepared, which was a little different.

Tarzan also has the comedic song/side characters, Terk and Tanto, which may as well be carbon copies of Timon and Pumba.

Incidentally, Tarzan was made into a Broadway musical and it was considered a big flop, but I actually prefer the music they added and the way the songs are sung by the characters not background.

The Story-

The story is pretty predictable but it is engagingly told.  We start out with our dramatic beginning showing us how Tarzan is adopted by the apes.  This might be a little scary for young kids under 5.

You either get hooked in with this intro or you don’t.  You either like Phil Collins singing or you don’t.  I’m always hooked.  I think it is pretty engrossing.

So Tarzan gets adopted by Kala voiced by Glen Close (another similarity to The Lion King lots of celebrity voices who don’t have to sing much).

mom

Kala rescues Tarzan but her mate Kerchak does not like the idea of having the ‘man cub’ (to use the Jungle Book) in the herd. So, he is hostile towards Tarzan from the beginning.

As Tarzan begins to cry Kala  sings the best song of the movie and my favorite lullaby- You’ll Be in my Heart.  If I am rocking one of my nieces it is the perfect song.  I LOVE it!

I actually prefer the Broadway version with the mother singing it the whole way so here it is:

We then get a bunch of  middling scenes with Tarzan feeling excluded and having a hard time making friends.  Eventually he makes 2 friends (the Timon and Pumba stand ins)

tarzan-tantor-terk

He grows up and there is a song called Son of Man. My Mother hated the song because son of man is a title of Christ, and she felt it was sacrilege for a pop song to have the same name as the Lord. (We got into the biggest fight one time over it.  Sigh…)

Terk, his guerrilla friend was voiced by then talk queen Rosie O’Donnell and it is not my favorite vocal.  She kind of grates on me.

Eventually Tarzan hears a sound and follows it to find a woman running in distress, being chased by monkeys.

damsel in distress

Some people will no doubt groan at the Jame, damsel in distress, trope but I don’t mind it here.  She’s strong in other ways and I don’t think every female character has to be strong.  They just have to have a personality of some kind (that’s what drives me crazy in Bella.  She’s damsel in distress and no personality).

Plus, I am a mess in the outdoors and an animalphobe so if I was being chased by monkeys I would be screaming louder than Jane so I guess I relate.

I had a really hard time finding clips for this movie for some reason but I do like the encounter of Jane and Tarzan first meeting.  It is very well done.

This is the first movie I can recall where Disney uses the big eyes common in Japanese animation such as Studio Ghibli.  Some people don’t like the large eyes but it doesn’t bother me.

Jane is in the Jungle with her father and their guide Clayton to try and study the guerrillas.  Clayton is a snooze of a villain who like Radcliffe in Pocahontas is only there for the GOLD! Greed is only on his mind in the form of guerrillas to sell for money!

tarzan-jane-green-skirt

Unlike Pocahontas who teaches John Smith her ways, Jane teaches Tarzan her ways which was very well done and then Tarzan shows Jane his world.  I really like the chemistry between Jane and Tarzan.   I liked that neither was stupid or patronizing.  They seemed sincerely interested in each other and their views. Minnie Driver is very good as Jane’s voice .

i-can-see-there-s-so-much-to-learn birdsWe also get a song sung by Terk called Trashing the Camp which is basically the Hakuna Matata of the movie and it’s ok.  I’m sure little kids love it.

Eventually the time for Jane to leave comes and Tarzan realizes he doesn’t want her to go.  Clayton convinces him if he shows them the guerrillas Jane might stay.  Kerchak has forbidden this for the safety of the herd.

Tarzan decides to anyway and at first it goes well.   It’s just beautiful!

meeting apes

But Kerchak comes and is enraged at Tarzan for betraying their home.  They fight and Tarzan leaves.  It is then that Kala takes Tarzan to the tree-house where she found him.  He learns who he is and decides to wear his father’s clothes and go with Jane and since Kerchak has forced him out what choice does he have?

The day of departure comes and they get on the ship only to find Clayton and all his men roping  everyone up and going to get the guerrillas to sell.

Terk and  Tantor help free Tarzan and the gang and they get back to help the herd and there is a great final battle with one of the gnarliest villain deaths in Disney history.  It is maybe too intense for little children to see a man hang himself? I don’t know.

Our ending with Jane and Tarzan ending up together in the jungle is predictable but I think done very well.  I liked it.

Movie Review-

I own this movie on blu-ray because it is so beautiful to watch, and I don’t mind the music, so I really enjoy it.  The vocal performances are good and I think Tarzan and Jane have nice chemistry and are a believable couple.

The comedic characters don’t work as well for me, but they aren’t terrible, and the villain is super one-note, but I still think it is a very satisfying picture.

I love You’ll Be in My Heart and like I said I just love watching him fly through those trees.  It’s stunning.

Overall Grade- B