Wednesday, January 04, 2006

King Kong, review of

Wherein I generally withhold praise from King Kong the movie while lauding praise to Naomi Watts the actress

Initially, I had no intention of seeing King Kong until I watched the previews. Then, wow! Really sucked me in, so I went. And while I can say I thought it was an enjoyable three hours, the movie has many, many faults. Almost every scene is extended long past any reasonable patience and I’d love to see the version of this chopped in half. I’m a big fan of long, slow, overindulgent movies and even I was looking at my watch.

Here’s a few other reactions:

Previously, I wrote of my misgivings concerning King Kong (KK). These misgivings were borne out. Kong looked to be half the size of the ship, and with no crane, at least half the crew dead, and a passed out giant gorilla at least a quarter mile from the boat, no legitimate way to get KK on the boat. I’m all for suspension of disbelief, I just ask that the movie play fair within whatever universe it’s in.

A few more examples?

Forget that Peter Jackson completely cut out the return trip, it appears that KK was in New York for maybe two months before his stage debut. I base this on the fact that Darrow is acting in a play and the Jack Driscoll's new play is being performed. Did no one see him moved from the boat? And where was KK kept? These are practical concerns.

Firing a machine gun to pick off giant bugs from someone’s back? I’ll give you the brontosaurus stampede and the giant bugs, but that’s stretching things a might thin.

Did anyone else think the Army was a bit trigger happy? They probably killed more New Yorkers than Kong did. Also poor traffic control. A giant ape has scaled New York's tallest building and the US Army is trying to shoot it down with planes, yet in the wide shots you can still see cars driving past the front of the Empire State Building. Peter, we know your CGI guys are the best in the business, but sometimes less is more [realistic].

Probably the incident that most took me out of the movie, was Ann Darrow looking for KK in New York. She’s wearing a sleek, sleeveless number and forgot her coat. It’s winter in New York and the ice is thick enough to hold KK without cracking, yet somehow, she doesn’t get cold. Even climbing a metal ladder at the top of the Empire State Building she doesn’t get cold. I’m guessing wind chill up there had to be close to zero Fahrenheit. Ms Darrow would have been dead of frostbite long before the first plane ever showed up.

While others will disagree, I had no problem with Jack Black, until the last line - “Was beauty killed the beast.” That’s the movie right there. It should encapsulate the KK and Darrow relationship and demonstrate some sort of emotional growth for Black. It does nothing other than deflate a very emotional death scene.

Speaking of the emotional death scene, this is where the movie works and makes it worth seeing. The interaction between KK and Ann Darrow is the heart of the movie and Naomi Watts completely sells the empathy for the beast. And if there's one thing Jackson and his crew of magicians can do, it's add human emotion to a CGI creation. Much like Gollum's conflicted nature could engender sympathy, so can King Kong. More than just a big, dumb beast, he's an old forgotten king, playing out his final days. While Darrow starts off as a minor plaything or chew toy, you can actually tell that KK begins to have feelings for her. And Ann is truly conflicted when Driscoll shows up and offers an escape.

Is it worth three hours? I say yes, just to see Naomi Watts. Is it a good movie? Not particularly. It strains incredulity and insults the concept of suspension of disbelief. I don't think I'll buy the DVD version, though when it comes out I'd love to see someone re-edit it to 1.5 hours. That would be a good movie.


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