First off, we have Kong: Skull Island. In case you’re wondering, this is NOT a direct sequel to the Peter Jackson King Kong (so you won’t have to sit through three plus hours of tedium thank goodness), but rather a fresh new start for the franchise. To be honest, I wasn’t really gonna rush to see this film, but when I saw it had Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L Jackson in it! Enough to convince me at least!
So the plot basically involves some scientist/guy who has too much time on his hands who forges an expedition to the aptly named Skull Island for – reasons I guess. He gathers a group together made up of a sexy tracker guy (Tom Hiddleston), an anti-war photographer (Brie Larson), a p*ssed off army general (Samuel L Jackson) and a random group of soldiers and scientists; who probably are all just one day away from retirement, if you know what I mean! Cue getting stuck on an island, giant monsters, lots of people getting killed off in over the top ways and, of course, King Kong himself!
Ok, so it’s not the most original plot; and it pretty much ticks off the list of every cliché in film known to man; but what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in special effects. And whilst they shouldn’t be the main reason why a film is good, they do enhance the experience here. The island actually feels like a living, breathing world; with real depth and character to it. The monsters are nightmarish, but never feel over the top and silly. Kong himself is brilliantly rendered and feels like a god amongst men. Pretty nice considering here he IS considered a protector amongst the humans that live here. There is also a subplot involving Kong’s family being murdered by these skull headed monsters. Which I guess makes him a more relatable character.
At times, the film tries to copy the feel of war films like Apocalypse Now and Platoon during the jungle scenes. These come across as hammy most of the times, but then the movie throws in a jump scare when a monster attacks. Actually, I think the jump scares here are better than most horror films I’ve seen recently – made me jump a few times I have to be honest.
As far as acting goes… well, it isn’t Shakespeare, put it that way. Even though it has some great actors like and Brie Larson to name a few, they don’t really have much to do other than just be Tom Hiddleston, Samuel Jackson, John Goodman and… well you get the idea. But at least they actually look like they’re having fun with it and not just doing it for a paycheck, so that makes the film enjoyable as the actors are actually doing their jobs very well. I just kinda wished that Sam Jackson burst out with something like "I have had it with these mother****ing Kong's on this mother****ing island!" or something like that. Although he DID reference his character in Jurassic Park with the "Hold onto your butts" line. That will sure to make a few film fans happy.
Best highlight for the film for me where the fight scenes. They were just incredible, especially the big ones with King Kong and the giant monsters. King Kong pretty much owns anything that comes his way, but he’s not invincible by any means. After the opening fight with the soldiers, you can actually see the damage done to him and the pain he’s in. Makes him a bit more, for lack of a better term, human than monster. And he does seem to move to Brie Larson as well – referencing the classic movie. I have to say I wish Brie Larson’s character didn’t fall into the “Feisty Damsel in Distress” trope. You think by now Hollywood would have learned those things don’t work very well in today’s movies.
So on the whole, this is a movie that you need to shut your brain off to enjoy. If you take it too seriously, you’ll hate it – but if you just take it as it is then you’ll probably enjoy it as a nice popcorn movie that you can have fun with. It’s silly, but harmless and entertaining. And at least the actors do actually look like they’re enjoying themselves. Oh, and whilst I missed this the first time, there is also an after credits scene that teases a confrontation between King Kong and a certain Japanese lizard… Let’s just hope it’s better than the first time they met!
All right, so now onto Logan – a film based on the comic Old Man Logan. I’m gonna be totally honest with you guys, whilst I enjoyed most of the X-Men movies, the Wolverine films underwhelmed me. The Wolverine was ok, but nothing special. And X-Men Origins: Wolverine – ugh, we don’t talk about that one! This one, however, I would say is by far the best of the three – and may even by the best X-Men film full stop!
The film is set in 2029, where mutants are all but wiped out and Logan is pretty much left to care for Charles Xavier (who is essentially senile and unable to control his powers as well) and Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant). Logan is no longer the badass killing machine he was in previous installments – now he is on death’s door, the adamantium skeleton that one time made him virtually indestructible is now slowly killing him. As such he can no longer heal as effectively as he once did. Why this is isn’t really explained, but it was extremely interesting to see Logan so vulnerable. Hugh Jackman gives arguably his greatest performance here, playing an old and run down version of himself that seeks nothing but punishment for his failure to protect those he cared about.
Enter into his life Laura, AKA X-23. She is a child that seems to have similar powers to Logan – in fact, you could say that she is his daughter. Well, not exactly… Basically there is a company called Transigen that are responsible for the death of many mutants, but also creating some through the use of mutant DNA. Laura and a few others escaped and now Logan and Xavier have to try and find the others, hunted by the Reavers and Dr Zander Rice.
It’s great to see both Jackman and Stewart return to their respective roles. Stewart is especially marvellous (pun intended). Like Logan, Xaiver is now a weakened version of his former self – except this time it has devastating consequences. At times he has deadly seizures that cause him to create telepathic shockwaves that can harm human and mutant alike. In fact, it’s later discovered that he accidentally killed some X-Men during a really bad seizure so long ago – so Logan has to act as a carer for him, keeping him drugged up to contain his powers. It’s really heartbreaking at times to see such a great man fall so far – but Xaiver still is able to act as the guidance for Logan on his journey. Merchants performance as Caliban is also extremely sensitive and – dare I say it – quite hard to watch sometimes when he’s being tortured by the bad guys.
This film also marks the first big film debut of Dafne Keen as Laura. Though she doesn’t speak for the vast majority of the movie, she certainly makes her presence felt. Like Wolverine in his early years, she can kick ass and take names. She’s certainly not a Damsel in Distress here – she’s more wild animal that, when unleashed, will tear you to pieces before you even know she’s there! But there’s also a real nuance to her performance with Logan, especially in the latter part of the film – I’ll get to that, don’t worry.
Now Wolverine has been known to dispatch his enemies pretty brutally, but they take that up to eleven here! There were times when I thought Tarantino was directing the movie, it was that bloody! But given the gritty, violent world this X-Men film is set in, it’s not out of place. Unlike previous films in the franchise, Logan feels very bleak, very grounded and extremely dark. It actually almost contradicts the recent colourfulness of recent Marvel films, making it feel more like a western than a superhero movie. Which is cool as it references Shane a number of times. If you’re easily squeamish then be careful.
I guess my only minor complaint is that the story feels a little slow at times. Seeing as Logan focuses more on character than big effects that’s not a bad thing I guess, but I kinda felt it could have picked up the pace a little bit. For example, the scene where Logan and the others met the family felt a little unnecessary to me – although I guess you could argue that was supposed to show Logan what a happen family looked like, but I dunno. Oh and the final meeting between Logan and Dr Rice was a HUGE anti-climax. Considering I don’t think he was built up enough, this was a little bit of a downer.
But the ending… oh boy I was NOT prepared for the ending! I was shocked and emotional enough when Xaiver ending up being killed by a Wolverine clone X-24 (and not in the BS way that he was killed in X-Men Last Stand), but seeing Wolverine die at the end was a huge punch in the gut. In his final moments, as he succumbs to the poison in his body and the other mutant children try to escape, Wolverine battles X-24 but is outmanned and wounded. Laura saves Logan, but it is too late for him. There is a tearful reunion with the two of them where Laura calls Wolverine “father” and Logan finally has a happy thought to go out on – before Laura leaves a gravestone with an X over it, a fitting tribute to the X-Men.
Jackman and Keen are excellent in this scene, capturing the full sadness and pain of loss. It’s extremely sad and I did well up a lot, but at least Wolverine went out the way he should have gone – fighting to protect those he loved. Because Wolverine, despite his aloofness, did always care for people and fought to protect them. It’s a loving tribute to Jackman and his performance over the last few years – and I can think of no more fitting ways for everyone’s favourite X-Man to meet his end.
Oh and by the way, contrary to a lot of Marvel films, this one actually has NO after credits scene – so don’t feel you have to sit through the end at this one. Though you might have to just to get over the emotional shock.
So there you have it, two reviews for one! Both offer something different, but both are fun to watch. Kong: Skull Island will never match the prestige of the original King Kong, but it is a fun, action-packed adventure for those that don’t mind silliness over drama. If you want something a bit more serious, then watch Logan. It’s dramatic, gritty and at times painful – but has plenty of humanity and adds a different spin on the superhero genre. Both are great films to watch.
Kong: Skill Island gets 4 out of 5 and Logan gets 4.5 out of 5.
I think it goes without saying that the original King Kong should be the first film you should watch. It hasn’t aged at all in my opinion and still looks as amazing as when it was first released (I’m guessing that as I’m probably too young to remember that, but I like it). But if you want a good helping of Wolverine, you should probably watch the X-Men movies and leave the standalone ones at the back. They aren’t that great.