Legend of Tarzan

A few weeks ago, I signed up for WB Tick­ets, where you can get free tick­ets to advanced screen­ings of new movies. The first one I was able to snag was for Leg­end of Tarzan.

Tarzan poster

I was not very excit­ed by the trail­ers, but I am not one to turn down a free movie. And I am a big fan of Christoph Waltz. On the Mon­day before gen­er­al release, I ran home after work, changed into a t‑shirt and bas­ket­ball shorts, and caught the train down to the Dol­by The­ater. Hol­ly­wood and High­land is always jam-packed with tourists, so I did not know where to go from the sta­tion. Besides the usu­al throng, there were met­al secu­ri­ty bar­ri­ers along Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard and lines for Tarzan pop-ups in the par­tial­ly-closed street. The first looked like a pho­to booth with some card­board cut-outs. The sec­ond was big­ger and looked like a jun­gle-themed bar. I walk towards the Dol­by The­ater entrance and there are addi­tion­al bar­ri­ers from the street up to the the­ater to keep passers-by from inter­rupt­ing some sort of red car­pet-ish event. There is no actu­al red car­pet, and no press, but the crowds are just stand­ing along the bar­ri­ers with cam­era phones in hand.

I ask a secu­ri­ty guard how I get into the movie screen­ing, and he tells me to go to the box office. The box office is on the oth­er side of the bar­ri­ers, but I talked to anoth­er guard right by it on my side, and he tells me the line starts on the street. I head back out to the street and go to the begin­ning of the bar­ri­ers, where a third secu­ri­ty guard impa­tient­ly tells me the screen­ing pass says exact­ly where I am sup­posed to line up. I go to the cor­rect spot, which I had pre­vi­ous­ly dis­count­ed because there was a stand for a local radio sta­tion there and I thought it was a line for anoth­er event. It turns out, the radio sta­tion was check­ing in VIPs, but the nor­mal line was also there. So I am in line, which has now dou­bled back away from the offi­cial check-in point, no one has looked at my pass yet. I oscil­late between feel­ing like a dum­b­ass and wor­ry­ing that I will not make it in. Some peo­ple in line are incred­i­bly well dressed, like they are going to the opera.

The appoint­ed start time comes and goes and I am get­ting more ner­vous. Final­ly, the line lurch­es to life. After I round the cor­ner and up the stairs, some the­ater staffers have a check­point. They scan my pass, give me a quick once-over, and bot­tom-deal me a tick­et from a giant stack. I hus­tle into the the­ater, where free pop­corn and Coke prod­ucts are avail­able. A series of ush­ers show me to my seat, which is in the very upper left cor­ner of the orches­tra lev­el, in a fold­ing chair in what I assume is a wheel­chair spot. The edge of the mez­za­nine lev­el blocks a slice of the top of the screen from my view, so I am a lit­tle annoyed, espe­cial­ly since I see peo­ple who were behind me in line mov­ing for­ward to bet­ter seats. The bet­ter-dressed people.

After every­one is set­tled, the lights dim and two men step out in front of the screen.

Tarzan screening

It turns out, this was not just an advance screen­ing. This was the Hol­ly­wood pre­mière! Those two men were David Yates and David Bar­ron, direc­tor and pro­duc­er. They pro­ceed­ed to thank the cast (who were sit­ting in the audi­ence!!!), and some behind-the-scenes folks, includ­ing a pro­duc­er who passed away. Also attend­ing was the First Lady of Gabon, where the aer­i­al shots of Africa were filmed. And with that, the movie started.

Based on the trail­er, I thought it was going to be a fair­ly stan­dard retelling of the Tarzan sto­ry. Instead, it starts lat­er in his life, when he is “civ­i­lized” and back in Eng­land, hav­ing reclaimed his fam­i­ly’s lands and title. He is already mar­ried to Jane, and goes back to Africa at the invi­ta­tion of the Dutch king. His ori­gin sto­ry and his ear­ly rela­tion­ship with Jane are cov­ered through inter­spersed flashbacks.

The plot is so-so, along the lines of any sum­mer action/adventure flick. Every­thing keeps flow­ing despite some non­sen­si­cal points. The Earth­porn shots are amaz­ing. Samuel L. Jack­son, who I did not even know was in the movie, was comedic gold. He plays the straight man to Tarzan’s super­hu­man feats, and even though he can­not car­pet f‑bomb because it is a PG-13 movie, you can see it in his facial expressions.

Mar­got Rob­bie has talked up her desire to play empow­ered women, and this Jane def­i­nite­ly fits. Besides refus­ing to scream “like a damsel” as we saw in the trail­er, she fights against her cap­tors every chance she gets. The natives, on the oth­er hand, are not empow­ered at all. They are can­non fod­der in the “nature vs. tech­nol­o­gy” or “native vs. invad­er” or “black vs. white” war, and are basi­cal­ly just anoth­er resource at Tarzan’s dis­pos­al. Sure, Tarzan respects his adopt­ed tribe and the chief makes a valiant sac­ri­fice, but in the final show­down, the com­bined tribes lit­er­al­ly stand on the cliffs and do noth­ing as Tarzan takes out the invad­ing army single-handedly.

All in all, see it for the great shots of Africa and for Sam Jack­son. As for me, I will put my the­o­ry to the test by dress­ing up next time to see if I get bet­ter seats.