Second Anniversary On Skull Island!

 Apparently Matt The Catania recently had another birthday. So I did what anybody who forgets an important milestone does & fled to Skull Island with The Wages of Cinema! Andrew was back this week so my presence was superfluous! Listen to us geek out over kaiju films after the halfway mark!

This is a movie that really surprised me. Since the dolorous adventure of King Kong has been told by Hollywood thrice (& once in a book illustrated by Anthony Browne), there’s no reason for another remake. Even if WB made this movie just to segue into King Kong v. Godzilla: Dawn of Destroy All Monsters, Kong doesn’t have that much context that he needs a whole introductory movie. Despite my initial thoughts, I left Kong: Skull Island hungry for more ape awesomeness! This should appease anyone upset by the budgetary restrictions of the CW’s jaunt to Gorilla City. I skipped their attempt at Gojira, but now sign me for the Legendary Monsterverse! I guess we should call it the Kaijuverse or MONARCHverse to distinguish this from the resurrection of the Universal Monsterverse.

Loki, Nick Fury, Captain Marvel, Nova Corpsman Dey, SSR Agent Dooley, & Doctor Doom encounter the greatest ape working for Thanos! None of the large cast are particularly well-rounded characters, so kudos to the writers & the charismatic performers for tricking me into thinking they were real people. Everybody has a good rapport to keep the film floating along. Even the soldiers get likable camaraderie rather than being obligatory monster chow of zero personality. There’s some great eyeball acting in this! Since the movie occurs at the same time as X-Men: Days of Future Past but with fewer Sentinels, will the surviving cast appear in geezer makeup for future installments? Now some light SPOILERS.

King Kong is famous for being half of a tragic Beauty & the Beast tale, so it’s puzzling that the interspecies romance that made him so compelling is omitted here. (There isn’t even any intraspecies romance here.) A wrecked 1930’s ship factors into the climax, implying that the Denham expedition was far less successful in this reboot. Mayhaps this time it was Ann Darrow that plummeted to her doom to make him an even sadder orphan? (Is he still destined to die in NYC?) The movie’s presentation of Kong as a weary lone defender of Skull Island is much better than the outright villainous one in The Lego Batman Movie.  Even with his increased height, I’m skeptical of Batman Kong being a legitimutant threat to Superman Godzilla in a sequel to come. This movie made me feel better about the match-up, as this Kong is more adept at transforming his environment into melee weapons. I never knew how much I wanted King Kong to be Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion until it happened! The final battle is exhilaratingly brutal! He survived being napalmed, so maybe he’ll be immune to atomic breath too? If he suddenly develops lightning paws or masters how to spontaneous combust, then he’ll be a worthy foe to Toho’s top Kaiju.

This movie is pulp in the best way possible! It’s filled with over the top mayhem without taking itself too seriously. John C. Reilly (the Ben Gunn to Samuel L. Jackson’s Captain Ahab in a literary mash-up) explains the island’s worst threats are its Skull Crawlers, then becomes embarrassed at how silly Skull Crawlers sounds when spoken aloud. Tom Hiddelston & Oscar-wining Brie Larson (a photojournalist named Mason Weaver so she can officially be Jill of All Trades) instantly agree they’re perfectly fine with calling them Skull Crawlers. The monster designs are nifty, & the tension in the action scenes are horror-levels. There’s an homage to Katie “Karalena is a much better ‘ship name than SuperCorp” McGrath’s gratuitous Jurassic World death by dickish pterosaurs (sans mosasaur this time)! If you ever wanted to see Tom Hiddleston charge through a boneyard filled with colorful fumes slashing at monsters with a katana, have I got a movie for you!

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Even before the monsters appear, this is a captivating film. It uses color, sound, movement, film stock, & even location titles to great effect. It effortlessly shifts between comedic & thrilling tones. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ resume didn’t seem like he’d be the ideal candidate to helm a monster war blockbuster, so he’s a marvelous surprise. (Of course it’s a shame that veteran female directors with genre experience like Michelle MacLaren, Lexi Alexander, & Rachel Talalay wouldn’t be given that same opportunity, let alone rookie women directors.) Every monster movie should be this well directed!

Replacing the aggressive natives in earlier versions are hospitable ones specializing in art & engineering. The Skull Islanders are living set decoration rather than actual characters. They’re trying to be as inoffensive as possible, yet mutely acceding to interlopers could be interpreted as a different sort of racism. It depends on whether you prefer indigenous tribes to be more relevant to the plot or exposition.

In prior adaptations, King Kong was the most scientifically unusual inhabitant of Skull Island since simians of improbably grargantuan proportions weren’t known to have existed like dinosaurs. Now that its other monsters are much weirder, this time he’s out of place for being comparatively  pedestrian. Perhaps future films will explain the Kongs are outliers because they’re tied into the green extraterrestrial apes that built MechaGodzilla? (Coincidentally I just wrote a chapter featuring a vintage MechaGodzilla model kit for the difficult second novel I began a year ago! Then I wrote another less germane chapter.) Will Skull Island & its unexplored “Hollow Earth” connection (they could expand this into an even bigger franchise with Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar) end up being the same place as Monster Island? When do we get the Ghidorah movie showing which planet it was King of before venturing to this mudball? I’m getting so excited for things that won’t happen!

This is a movie that theoretically shouldn’t work but succeeds with flying colors anyway. Even its Apocalypse Now themed advertising is on point. It’s a pity its toyline is so subpar. Drag your knuckles as fast as you can for tickets to Kong: Skull Island!

(Speaking of the gigantic gorilla genre, Goliathon/The Mighty Peking Man is far superior to The Mighty Gorga! I really ought to see Konga & King Kong Lives. Where’s the Primal Rage movie adaptation?)

After the well made bummer that was Logan, some upbeat X-news is that Zazie Beetz will be Domino in Deadpool 2. I haven’t seen her in Atlanta yet, but I have been there. Hopefully there’s a scene with her speaking her native German. Since Domino is a racially ambiguous albino in the comics, nobody should be upset by this casting. I’m eager to see that signature look recreated with Ms. Beetz, but I suppose it’d also look neat if they inverted it with a white oval on literally pitch black skin. They’ll have to slather her with some kind of makeup so the iconic eye spot doesn’t just look like a tattoo, giant mole,  or vitiglio. Hopefully her design will continue the Deadpool tradition of maximum effort in getting the visuals right, not inking domino tiles over her ala Oscar-winning Suicide Squad.

Maybe the random tidbits I keep pushing back will finally work their way into next week’s blog? In the meantime, spam all your frenemies with this post on your least hated social media!

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