Action Adventure

'The Legend of Tarzan' Blu-ray Review: Reboot mixes history and fiction, with mixed results

October 14, 2016Ben MK

Can a fictional hero who made his literary debut more than a century ago prove that he's still relevant today? It certainly isn't beyond the realm of possibility, but in the case of The Legend of Tarzan, the hero in question — John Clayton III, aka the Fifth Earl of Greystoke, aka Tarzan, King of the Apes — feels more like a relic of cinema's past than a character who's been redefined for contemporary audiences.

Rather than rehashing Tarzan's origin story, The Legend of Tarzan continues it, finding Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) 8 years removed from the jungles of Africa where he grew up. Now living in London with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie), Tarzan is persuaded to return to the Congo alongside American diplomatic envoy George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), to investigate rumors of widespread slave-trading. Little does Tarzan or Williams realize, however, that Tarzan's trip home is all a trap orchestrated by one Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who's out to capture Tarzan and deliver him to a vengeful tribal chief named Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou).

Written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer and directed by David Yates (best known for his work on the Harry Potter franchise, as well as the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), The Legend of Tarzan also retrofits the titular character's literary backstory with real-life historical details, an attempt at grounding the film and legitimizing its drama. However, the effort works perhaps a little too well, as the plot exposition serves mainly to weigh the movie down, distracting from the action sequences, which are already few and far between.

As for the performances, Robbie turns in a fine one as the headstrong Jane, while both Jackson and Waltz come off a bit more subdued than usual. The glaring problem, however, is Tarzan himself, who fails to stand out in any discernible way. On the contrary, Skarsgård's portrayal of the character plays it safe in every regard, which results in virtually every other cast member being more interesting than the lead. Otherwise, The Legend of Tarzan is quite the serviceable period action-adventure; however, in contrast to its title, it's a far cry from legendary.

The Legend of Tarzan swings onto Blu-ray with a strong but somewhat underwhelming 1080p visual presentation, bolstered by crisp image detailing, deep blacks and balanced contrast levels. As for color saturation, it's a bit of a mixed bag, though this is likely due to the filmmakers' intentions, rather than an issue with the transfer. The movie's opening moments are almost monochromatic, and even as the film progresses, truly vibrant splashes of color are rare to come by, relegated mainly to a handful of jungle sequences. Luckily, the accompanying Dolby Atmos sound mix fares much better, as it aptly doles out crystal-clear dialogue and music, along with all manner of ear-catching sounds, from blasts of gunfire and the "whoosh!" of spears sailing through the air, to the fierce growls of apes, the pounding of drums, rumbles of thunder and crackles of lightning.

Warner's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Tarzan Reborn (15:10) - The filmmakers and the cast talk about their familiarity with how Tarzan has been portrayed in past films and television serials, and how this new film reinvents the character and presents him in a different light, along with a bit about Skarsgård's physical training, the choreography, the costume design, and the real-life historical characters and events incorporated into the story.
  • Battles and Bare-Knuckle Brawls (15:05) - A behind-the-scenes look at the construction of three of the film's action sequences ("Tarzan vs. Akut," "Boma Stampede" and "Train Ambush").
  • Tarzan and Jane's Unfailing Love (6:01) - A look at the characters of Tarzan and Jane and the romance between them that underpins the film.
  • Creating the Virtual Jungle (15:16) - A piece about how the filmmakers recreated the jungles of Africa and their animal inhabitants on a soundstage in Leavesden, using a combination of practical sets, green screens, real-life footage and visual effects.
  • Gabon to the Big Screen (2:28) - The filmmakers and the cast praise the beauty of Africa's Gabon and talk about the need to stop the slaughter of the country's elephants.
  • Stop Ivory (1:30) - Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie appear in this ad for

The Legend of Tarzan is available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as of October 11th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 50 Mins.

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