Flashback Review: Mighty Joe Young (1998)

In 1949, Merian C. Cooper (King Kong) produced a monster movie titled, “Mighty Joe Young” a spiritual successor to “King Kong.” The plot is about a young woman named, Jill who raised a gorilla named, Joe as a pet since childhood, grows into a fifteen-foot tall Kaiju. They’re offered a deal with a deal with a businessman who gives them an opportunity to gain fame and fortune. They both accept the offer in order to save a family ranch since they grew up together.

Mighty Joe Young is notable for introducing the late special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Clash Of The Titans) using groundbreaking stop-motion techniques earning him an Oscar for “Best Visual Effects.” Five Decades Later, Disney produced a remake starring the late Bill Paxton & Charlize Theron.

Mighty Joe Young was released in 1998. It received mixed reviews from critics and movie goers alike. Due to Roland Emmerich’s terrible remake of “Godzilla,” nearly destroying the monster movie genre, Mighty Joe Young failed to recoup its expenses at the box office. I’m gonna come clean, I’ve never seen the original, I learned about it from James Rolfe/Angry Video Game Nerd’s short review on his YouTube channel known as “Cinemassacre.”

A monster related movie titled, “Godzilla VS. King Kong” is slated to come out in November 2020. I know Mighty Joe Young isn’t interconnected to both monsters, but it has something to keep you busy. One more thing, Charlize Theron’s upcoming film, “Bombshell” will be out in December 13, so don’t forget to mark your calendars.

Today’s review does not have any crucial SPOILERS whatsoever. If you haven’t seen the original or remake, feel free to read my non-spoiler article. Is Mighty Joe Young a decent remake or a dud? Time to find out.

Strong & Weak Aspects

Strong: Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron & Regina King all did a great job for their respective performances.

Fun Fact: Both Bill & Charlize co-starred in separate films set in the “Alien” franchise. Bill played Private Hudson in “Aliens” & Charlize played Meredith Vickers.

Chemistry between Bill & Charlize’s characters Gregg & Jill felt normal. It never felt like an early romance between them. Thank goodness Disney didn’t play their early pairing card.

James Horner (Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Titanic, Avatar) orchestrated music for the remake.

Special Effects make-up artist Rick Baker (An American Werewolf In London, The Nutty Professor, Men In Black) designed Joe’s appearance. He made a suit specifically designed for a stuntman.

Special Effects used a Blue Screen & Forced Perspective to make a stuntman in the gorilla suit look like he’s a fifteen-foot Kaiju. I’m surprised Joe looked very real than Godzilla 1998. I’ll have to this Bonus Points as its far more superior than Roland Emmerich’s remake.

If you’re expecting a giant monster rampaging a city, it’s not what you think. I didn’t mind something completely different in a monster movie.

The Premise is different from the 1949 version. Again, I’ve never seen the original.

Opening Prologue establishes Jill & Joe’s friendship. We get to know about their past prior to the events taking place in modern times.

A Russian poacher plays a key role in Jill & Joe’s past.

Ray Harryhausen himself makes a cameo appearance as a dinner guest.

A fair plays a huge part. Fairs became a trend in 2019 featuring movies/shows like “Shazam,” “Toy Story 4,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” “Stranger Things: Season 3,” “HBO’s Euphoria” & “It: Chapter 2.”

Weak: A random kid shows up when Joe shows up in Los Angeles. Later on, the same kid comes back in a contrived way. I don’t know anything about him. He’s just here to move the plot forward not in an organic progression. LA isn’t a local neighborhood, it’s much bigger than a cul-dec-sac.

The Final Verdict: A-

From my point of view, Mighty Joe Young is an underrated remake. A refreshing narrative to the monster movie genre trying something unique, rather than seeing a Kaiju wrecking havoc in a populated city. If you’re curious to see Mighty Joe Young, go ahead and give it a watch. It’s currently available on Disney Plus.

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