Sight Unseen: Tarzan (2016)

[Sight Unseen is a new feature of film reviews by writers who have not seen the films they are reviewing.]

Tarzan (2016)
Directed by David Yates
220 minutes
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

On the set of the Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes remake, Burton fell into that most common type of love—the love you fall into with a woman dressed as a monkey. Alas, Burton and Helena Bonham Carter have, recently, announced their separation by filming and uploading to YouTube their collaborative destruction of the bridge between their two respective houses. Now, perhaps you feel your thirst for monkey love is sated by Reb Livingston’s classic holiday tune, “Monkeys in Love.” If not, have I got a treat for you. Much like the director of Mars Attacks! I, too, have fallen in love with a monkey, and that monkey’s name, predictably, is Alexander Skarsgård.

In case you’re not familiar with the man or the monkey, for seven years, Alexander Skarsgård equally embodied sass and menace as a Viking who could turn into a bat. Thankfully, Skarsgård has brought none of those characteristics to his new, striking, intensely sexual performance as Tarzan, Monkey Man. In order to play a man raised by monkeys, Tarzgård reportedly broke into the Bronx Zoo Congo Gorilla Forest, unbeknownst to zookeepers, and remained there, lying in wait, for all of 2014. Some of the only concrete proof of this period in Tarzgård’s career exists in the form of cryptic tweets Tarzg dispatched in the early days of his training.

Here, Tarzg relates his desire to see some “sweet monkeys.” By the same token, it’s the sweetness of the monkeys that most comes through in his performance in Tarzan, Monkey Man—Targz’s sweetness and warmth shine through his face as blood rushes to his head when hanging from a particularly tall canopy. So, too, does Targhskj’s sweetness invigorate a scene in which Targhkldj smears red berries all over his own shiny, red face. Indeed, Tarihkldgj brings a great deal of warmth, sweet, sweat, and spit to the character.

Tarzgård’s second and final tweet reveals the transformation that has taken place over the course of his certainly life-changing experience:

Scholars have fiercely debated Tarzgård’s intriguing use of page space and expressive spelling in this tweet. Perhaps Tarz is emphatically addressing a public that needs to know what he is seeing—and he is seeing monkeys. Perhaps Tarz is tweeting at the monkeys. And what of the slyly included syllable, “eat,” at the end? Who is eating? Or what is eating? Who is eating what? What is eating who?

Since January 20, 2014, Tarzgård’s physical body has not been seen, at least by humans, so it’s possible he remains in the Gorilla Forest or has moved on to Jungleworld. Luckily, we have Tarzan, Monkey Man on celluloid—Tarzgård’s spiritual body—to calm us in our time of need of Tarz. The film, as I’ve expressed, is stunning, and Tarzgård’s performance is unparalleled. Alexander Tarzgård has perhaps given us our best example of that most necessary price you must pay for your art. What are you willing to do? Can Tarzg show you the way? Give him a chance. As the old saying goes, this monkey’s a must see.


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