Guillermo Del Toro is a master of the modern fairy tale. In The Shape of Water, he tells the story of a budding love between a mute woman named Elisa and a captive fish creature. Like the very best of Del Toro, the film blurs the line between reality and fantasy and succeeds as an allegorical tale about the transformative power of love. Set in the Cold War Era, most of the story takes place in a secret government facility replete with scientists, gung-ho military jerk-offs, and spies. This setting provides the canvass for Del Toro’s peculiar aesthetic, as well as the majority of the tension. The performances are outstanding, from the supporting characters to the leads to the man in the Fish Monster suit. Simply put, The Shape of Water is a gorgeous little tale and the reason why movies can be so magical.
Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo is no stranger to off-the-wall storytelling; Los cronocrímenes (Timecrimes) may be the best film featuring time-travel ever. In Colossal, Vigalonda tries his hand at a kaiju movie, but infuses it with his own style. Vigalondo exploits the genre for allegory and dark comedy, crafting an inventive exploration of indulgence, regret, and self-destruction – followed by attempts at self-improvement. The director has a deft command of his characters, abrupt shifts in mood and tone, and thematic allegory. The peculiarity of Colossal is a big part of its appeal, but it has far more to offer than its bizarre gimmick.
Kong: Skull Island is an unbalanced amalgamation of B-Movie schlock and hyper-budget blockbuster special effects (est. $185M). It teems with A-List stars searching vainly for a place to die so they don’t have to embarrass themselves any longer. The plot makes some sense, but the specific beats that move it from scene to scene are fairly nonsensical. And like clockwork, we can’t go five minutes without someone getting eaten, something exploding / catching on fire, or the titular great ape fighting something. The film especially founders tonally, where it can’t quite decide how serious it should be. Even the gigantic action set pieces are bizarre and uneven – sometimes incredibly realistic and other times practically cartoons. At its best, Kong: Skull Island is an expensive farce; the most fun you can have is wondering aloud what possessed so many people to light so much money on fire in such a strange way. At its worst, it is a hum-drum reiteration of better movies without anything particular noteworthy about it at all.