King Kong is back. This time he’s on ‘Skull Island’ with a stellar cast (including John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Tom Hiddleston), but I’m not excited about this new, and probably not improved, visit to a classic monster. I’ll see it—eventually—on a plane when I can’t sleep…. You get the picture. It folded quickly in the theaters and now haunts my Netflix queue, hovering with lack of interest.
Sometimes it’s best to leave the old monsters alone.
And then there are times when a re-write or remake or revisit is an inspired leap for monster lovers. I enjoyed Showtime’s ‘Penny Dreadful’—the much lamented, often despised, TV series that created a mash-up of Dracula, Frankenstein, and assorted classics in heightened, and often erudite, stew of craziness. Any series that introduces an alienist (the precursor of a psychoanalyst) played by Patti LuPone has got to be worth seeing. It disappeared after a few enigmatic seasons.
I want to give all monster revisits a try, but I’m often put off by the very hype that is supposed to inspire monster lovers to rush to theaters or to download Kindle copies of new books. I can’t tell you the number of new Dracula-inspired novels that I’ve read—or tried to read. It’s sobering. Is my own Dracula-inspired novella OK? I think so. I also know that I made strategic choices when setting it in contemporary New York and, with one eye on the original and the other on a divergent storyline.
I think that’s where an amazing number of revisits fail to deliver. If the objective is to recreate the language, tension, setting, and characters of a classic book or film, the bar is just too high. Dressing up a classic with a few 21st Century technology details or with the consciousness of contemporary ideas is not enough. The revisit must be original in its own way.
I guess that’s why I’m wary of the periodic rise of Kong. Maybe I’m still recovering from the 1976 incarnation with Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, and another cast of stellar talents?