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Tarzan makes an underwhelming return

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Tarzan

Two stars

The Legend of Tarzan Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz. Directed by David Yates. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character Tarzan, an English nobleman raised by apes in the jungles of Africa, has been featured in hundreds of movies and TV shows over the past century, and coming up with a new way to tell his story is a challenge the creators of The Legend of Tarzan aren’t quite up to. In some ways, this version is quite old-fashioned, set around the era of Burroughs’ early novels (the 1880s) and focused on Tarzan (aka John Clayton, Lord Greystoke) as both a refined figure of English society and a fearsome jungle warrior.

Unfortunately, he’s also kind of a bore, and while True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård might have amazing abs, his Tarzan is grim-faced and dull. The movie as a whole, pitting Tarzan and his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) against a power-hungry Belgian government official (Christoph Waltz) who plans to exploit the natives of the Congo, is equally dull, with mediocre special effects, forgettable action and a slow-moving plot. The talented Robbie is stuck playing the damsel in distress, and Waltz once again disappoints as the villain in a big Hollywood action movie. Samuel L. Jackson, as real-life American activist George Washington Williams, is the only cast member with any spark to his performance, even though his character is largely superfluous. Legend, too, is superfluous, an unnecessary addition to the long line of Tarzan stories.

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