We like complaining about remakes: they’re a bugbear that send fans into a frothing rage. Mocked for their lack of imagination, we bemoan film’s creative impotence and agree that all these reboots should throw themselves in the bin. But this ignores the fact that retellings aren’t a recent fad – they’ve been happening for decades. The industry has always thrived on reimagining stories for a new generation. And there’s nothing wrong with that: cynicism aside, it allows us to revisit a property and explore something we wish had been done the first time around.
That’s definitely the case in movies like this year’s Beauty and the Beast, where a faithful adaptation is added to with backstory for both Belle and Beast. It was expansive rather than repetitive, and this is very much the approach of Kong: Skull Island as well. With a 70s setting, hordes of kaiju to take on Kong and a very different story that has nothing to do with New York, this is a movie that fights to avoid the familiar.
To my mind, Skull Island was very successful in taking a familiar story and reimagining it in a fresh way. While it may have been on the nose more often than not (its characters are unabashed clichés and the plot can be predictable) displacing the narrative from the Depression to a post-Vietnam war era gives it an entirely different flavour. I’m a little disappointed we’ll never see the Kong of this shared universe taking on bi-planes atop the Empire State Building – indeed, I wish those events could have happened in the past and formed the impetus to revisit Skull Island, wherein they find the original Kong’s bigger descendant – but I suppose that’s for the best when you consider the fact that it has to fit into a world where monsters appear in public for the first time during Godzilla. Not that there’s any chance he won’t clamber up the iconic skyscraper for Godzilla v Kong’s crossover, of course.
This is why I keep banging on about reboots being given a chance: unless you’re pulling an Amazing Spider-Man and going over the same origin less than ten years later, there’s usually something new to mine that’ll make a story fresh again.
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