here is a sense of finality in Logan, the film and the character played for the 10th time by Hugh Jackman. When the film opens, we see a couple of tire-thieves, and their ultimate bad choice of jacking the wheels off a futuristic limo. The man inside isn’t happy, but he’s not that angry. Logan, with a messy grey beard and wrinkles comes out of the car and asks them to stop. His politeness – more of a plea – is out of emotional tiredness; the slight limp in his walk suggests an ailing physique. For a mutant with a powerful healing factor, age and limps do not paint a pretty picture.
The wheel-thieves, of course, are sliced and diced – but not before James Mangold, the returning director of The Wolverine, grounds Logan into a believable and very realistic setting. It is 2029, and no new mutants are being born. The world is as it was – cell phones, dusty American towns, long wide farms, big billboards and neon signs on motels and casinos. Logan, with his big limo, chauffeurs anyone from sleazebags to drunk women on a night out in wild bachelorette parties. When one of them (probably the bride, or the bridesmaid) flashes, he nods a smile; life’s awkward little pleasures.
Of course, trouble finds Logan soon (he is not referred to as Wolverine much, if at all; that current mantle belongs to the film’s other lead character). He takes on a job – very reluctantly – to deliver a Mexican woman, Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez), and a young girl Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota. Laura doesn’t speak, and Gabriella is desperate; Logan, smelling trouble, doesn’t want to get involved. However, he has different priorities and money, as it always has been, is one of them.
For years now Logan has been taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), with the assistance of Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a mutant who tracks others of his kind. Xavier is very old, and barely functioning; he is branded as a “weapon of mass destruction”, because he cannot control his powers. Logan keeps him secluded inside a toppled smelting plant near Texas’ border; the place, brilliantly designed, looks like Cerebro – the mutant tracking computer used by the professor to recruit and save young homo superiors; and it functions as a calm, starry night – which underlines one of Logan’s many subtleties.
Logan’s screenplay (by Scott Frank, Mangold and Michael Green) doesn’t rummage into specifics of the what and the why’s; they do, however, talk about the when and the where’s, in present tense. Events do not flashback to fill-in the holes (I believe that there would be other movies in the X-Men franchise to mull that point over). It, instead, culminates a journey.
Mangold makes Logan a road movie, with Xavier, Logan and Laura, escaping a team of corporate cyborgs called Reavers (led by Boyd Holbrook), working for a genetic-farm run by Zander Pierce (Richard E. Grant, subtle and villainous). Zander has created Laura, a test-tube mutant, in Logan’s image. (She has the claws, the speed and the regenerative capabilities).
In their journey to North Dakota, Mangold tries to delicately tell a final Wolverine story. A story where one has to stop running away from family, (in a way, Logan wasn’t; he cared for Xavier as a desperate son would), and paints over it with some really bloody, R-rated, carnage.
People are easily decapitated as Logan and Laura’s claws slice through skulls. This may be the first time one has seen this happen on-screen to flesh-and-blood people (sort of), even though subliminally after so many X-Men films, we know very few live through such fatal wounds. The fight choreography (and the rustic-looking cinematography by John Mathieson), however, isn’t as jerky and quick-to-cut in the edit.
Mangold is in perfect control for most of the movie (for example, he sparingly uses music cues in the film). Apart from a few sappy dialogues at the end of the picture, the dynamic – and Oscar-worthy acting – between Jackman and Stewart (and Merchant), creates an emotion that booms well beyond any X-Men movie.
Most of the feels from Logan are sad and bitter-sweet, but tells you that it is okay to move on – even if there are no better films coming from this line-up in the future. •
Most of the feels from Logan is sad and bitter-sweet, but tells you that it is okay to move on - even if there are no better films coming from this line-up in the future.
Let’s face facts: when (or if) you ever go to see Kong: Skull Island, you would so for the mountain-sized ape. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, however, has the opportunity to make you see otherwise – and he is smart enough about it.
Skull Island erases Peter Jackson’s King Kong from history – at least its version of history; the world Kong inhabits is like today – sort of.
Set in 1973, around the time Vietnam happened (Skull Island’s production location, itself is Vietnam), a special military assemblage is sent to a lost island on a hunch that big primitive monsters could be dwelling there. (A fact confirmed by 2014’s Godzilla, set in the present).
The expedition is led by “Bill” Randa (John Goodman), a senior official of the government-funded group called Monarch created to fight off such monsters if they would attack mankind. The military personnel, do not know of this mission (duh!), and is commanded by an easily pissed-off man-of-action (Samuel L. Jackson). His in-the-dark team includes a specialist tracker (Tom Hiddleston), a press-photographer (Brie Larson), and a few scientists (Jing Tian and Corey Hawkins – a paired-up Asian and African-American; you make the connection).
The military unit quickly recreates man’s war-hungry mindset by bombarding the tranquil island as soon as they arrive with Napalm bombs, and soon Kong – or Kong Jr., because the film tells us that he is still growing – takes out the military helicopters.
It is a roaring spectacle made in spectacular 3D and CG (Kong was played by actor Terry Notary, who filmed his scenes in three days in a motion capture stage). If Skull Island feels like Apocalypse Now, that is because it is. Sort of.
Sort of, is, at the moment, the best Vogt-Roberts can do with the material.
The screenplay (by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly), try to keep things exciting, while dumping characters in a string of bad situations. Toby Kebbell, one of military’s men with a slight backstory, is wasted, as are Jackson, Hiddleston, Larson and Goodman.
We do not learn – or empathise – with them much (if at all). When the platoon gets squashed, trampled or eaten by Skull Island’s dangers, we shrug it off. Cannon fodder don’t have much screen-life, yes, but the phenomena has slipped off to main characters now.
Fleeting glimpses of humanity, now, is exclusive to computer-generated gargantuans – like Kong (but not Godzilla) – who, as it turns out, safeguards humanity from reptilian creatures.
Somewhere in the middle of the film, we meet John C. Reilly, a war pilot stranded in Skull Island for 28 years, who brings some spark to the film’s humanity. That is why the film’s end-credits conclude on him, rather than the other top-billers.
He, at least, (like the big ape’s motives), had substance. •
It is a roaring spectacle made in spectacular 3D and CG. If Skull Island feels like Apocalypse Now, that is because it is. Sort of.
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