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Non-Review Review: The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan is a dysfunctional film.

It is an interesting film in many ways, eschewing a lot of the conventional choices when it comes to adapting the Lord of the Jungle for the silver screen. There are a lot of reasons why this adaptation might want to steer clear of familiar trappings like the origin story or opt for an unconventional starting point, and the result is one of the most intriguing of the year’s big blockbusters. The Legend of Tarzan never follows the path of least resistance, and the resulting film is more fascinating for that.

"Anyone for tea?"

“Anyone for tea?”

It is also a lot less satisfying. Tarzan is an archetypal character. Many of the character’s trappings linger in popular memory. Even people who have never seen a Tarzan film will recognise the character’s battle cry. The loincloth is just as iconic as Superman’s red underwear. There are certain expectations in a Tarzan adaptation. Defying many of those choices is a bold storytelling decision, but that decision creates an absence at the heart of the film. Director David Yates and star Alexander Skarsgård never manage to fill that void.

The result is a film that is fun to puzzle out, but not entirely engaging on its own terms. Characters repeatedly acknowledge “the Legend of Tarzan”, whether sketched on posters or memorialised in song. However, the film spends so much of its first half picking apart the legend that it struggles to put it back together at the climax.

Note: there is more colour in this frame than in the entire film.

Note: there is more colour in this frame than in the entire film.

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The Doctor Is In? Is Doctor Who “Too British” For American Audiences?

Well, it’s been about a week since the news broke that David Yates would be directing the new Doctor Who movie, being produced by the BBC, aimed at American audiences. Perhaps Steven Moffat’s rumoured commentary was perfectly apt: it seems that neither the director nor the studio have any idea what exactly they are planning, and the announcement might have been more than a little preemptive. There’s a lot of chatter out there about what this means for the television show, which is rumoured to be running severely over-budget and under pressure from the BBC executives. Because, you know, it’s not like the show makes enough to justify its costs.

I don’t know if this means potential cancellation or a reboot after the fiftieth anniversary, or even if the show and the movie will run alongside in two distinct continuities (and people said Moffat’s “timey-wimey” plots were too complicated!). Being entirely honest, I’m not sure if Yates knows either. However, something does fascinate me about this. Bringing Yates on-board represents a vote of confidence, suggesting that Doctor Who could be somewhere in the region of “Harry Potter” success stateside.

I can’t help but wonder if Doctor Who is simply “too British” for mainstream American audiences, and if launching a movie franchise to appeal to the demographics will be able to keep the core of the character and the show, while courting North American movie-goers.

States of play?

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Pottering Away: Reflections on the Harry Potter franchise…

It’s quite strange, considering a movie series as opposed to its independent constituent elements. It seems like in taking in the broad tapestry of adventure allows the viewer a completely different appreciation for the story being told, especially when measured against considering each individual film on its own terms. With the Harry Potter series finally ending, I had an excuse to go back and dig through the old DVDs, watching each and every instalment in the series as a means of saying one final goodbye. However, despite the fact that some of the films may have been less impressive than others, or the fact that the plots didn’t always flow consistently from one film to the next, I still think that the eight films taken in their totality represent a rather wonderful accomplishment for all involved.

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I

Even in this era of franchises and spin-offs and sequels and remakes to see a movie treated as a form of serialised fiction. I’m not even talking about a sequel hook inserted just before (or even during) the trailers, but I’m talking about literally taking one whole movie and dividing it and then releasing separately. It’s an approach that worked for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and for The Lord of the Rings, but each Harry Potter film until now has felt like its own story, containing threads building towards a larger finale. Each instalment has been structured with a beginning, middle and end. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, we simply get a first act and what feels like the majority of the second. As such, it feels almost strange to review it without the companion film.

Harry's a wiz by this stage of the game...

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