Wednesday, March 15, 2017


If you know anything at all about YA Guy, you know that my favorite movie of all time is King Kong (the 1933 original). I first saw it when I was a child, and like many people who've made and loved fantasy films--Ray Harryhausen, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson--I was blown away by its combination of humanity, grandeur, and wonder. Though it's possible to argue that stop-motion animator Willis O'Brien's effects don't stand up today, it's impossible to deny how revolutionary and influential they were at the time. Kong is very nearly a perfect movie in every respect, and it's simply not possible, in my opinion, to do it better than it was done back in '33.

But they keep trying. And they keep failing.

There was Son of Kong, another O'Brien vehicle that was mysteriously budgeted much lower than the original blockbuster and that suffered from a flabby script, overacting, and a white-furred, comic baby Kong. There was the 1976 fiasco, supposedly featuring a life-size Kong but actually, in all but a single brief scene, sporting makeup artist Rick Baker in an utterly unconvincing gorilla suit. There was Jackson's homage to the original, wisely set during the Depression but very unwisely drawing out the story to twice the original's length, much of that extra footage wasted on interminable, implausible CGI battle sequences. And now, there's Kong: Skull Island, about which the less that's said, the better.

I watched the movie today, and I'm sorry to report that it's idiotic on every level. Kong himself is ridiculously big, presumably so he'll be matched in scale with Godzilla for the upcoming remake of the Japanese film in which the two monsters duked it out. He's also, for all his semi-realistic fur and musculature, utterly weightless, which is a problem the CGI gurus have simply not been able to figure out--everything floats around without the merest appearance of mass, making the creatures look like preposterously realistic cartoons cavorting in live-action settings. Completely lacking in personality, this Kong is nothing but a hundred-foot-tall wrecking machine, doing equivalent amounts of damage on helicopters, giant octopuses, and stupid-looking giant lizard-things with human arms but no legs. The cast is full of actors (Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman) whose careers are clearly bottoming out, if being eaten by stupid-looking giant lizard-things is any indication. And the supposed "message," something about how the Earth doesn't really belong to us and we should treat it better, falls completely flat amidst all the mayhem. This was a movie that should never have been made, and my sole regret is that I wasted nine bucks and two hours of my life on it.

There are still some great fantasy and science fiction movies being made. Arrival, based on the Ted Chiang story, was terrific. So was the stop-motion masterpiece Kubo and the Two Strings. The Star Wars movies of recent years, though no longer revolutionary, remain well-crafted and engaging. The Martian had the benefit of great source material (the Andy Weir book) and a great director (Ridley Scott). So it's not as if I've given up on this kind of film, even when, as is so often the case, substance takes a back seat to spectacle.

But I think it's time to admit that Beauty killed the Beast for good. Ever-more frantic attempts to resuscitate him are doing nothing but heaping ignominy on his once-majestic career.


  1. Yes, but how many times does Samuel L. Jackson say M**f**er? Because we all know that is what thw original Kong was missing: Ironic profanity.

    1. Indeed, I always thought that was a shortcoming in the '33 classic. :)