Monday, December 19, 2005
KING KONG RANT
KING KONG RANT
“When the big monkey die, everybody cry” - Dino De Laurentiis
I was hugely anticipating Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake, however I came away from the multiplex trailing popcorn and not only feeling disappointed but actually even a bit depressed from the experience. While there are some incredible scenes and strong performances, and yes indeed some very cleverly incorporated references & homages to the original, but my take on King Kong is that it’s an ambitious, impressive, yet ultimately overdone and self-indulgent piece of filmmaking.
Peter Jackson is undeniably a gifted filmmaker with tremendous vision and phenomenal abilities. Unfortunately for us, the audience, crisp editing isn’t one of them – the movie is so much longer than it needs to be.
Interesting Kong factoid: The amount of weight that Peter Jackson lost during the making of King Kong (70 lbs.) is exactly the number of minutes he should have trimmed from this movie to make it really great!
The movie introduces far too many tertiary characters, (many of whom suffer unnecessarily gruesome demises) all of whom merely distract from and dilute the impact of the central relationships of Kong and Ann and Jack and Carl. There are repetitive themes and lines of dialog related to some of the third-level characters that serve no purpose other than to reinforce other character traits and plot points that have already been well established. (Denham is a thoughtless, self-aggrandizing chumbucket – okay, we got that . . .) There are even a few scenes where you can tell that Peter Jackson was so enamored of the success of the shot’s construction he just couldn’t help himself from showing it to us twice or even three times. The chases and fight scenes start out thrilling and harrowing but just slog ON and ON to where they attain a level of unbelievable absurdity. I kept expecting Naomi Watts to roll her eyes and mutter, “Oh fer Christ’s sake!” as her plight escalated.
Speaking of Naomi Watts, I’ll give her credit for creating a strong and appealing Ann Darrow, using her streetwise toughness and stage-honed cleverness to get herself out of more than a couple of nasty situations. (but this is SO not an Oscar caliber performance – come on people, step away form the crack pipe, take a deep breath and get some perspective here) Most of her scenes with Kong are really quite moving and emotional, once you suspend disbelief at the admittedly odd premise of the beauty taming, or seducing, or at the very least severely flummoxing the beast. But ultimately it’s a good performance in service of a not so good movie.
Adrian Brody does a fine job as Jack Driscoll, though he does actually become kind of a fifth wheel in the Ann and Kong emotional action. “Hmmm, there’s the woman I love sleeping peacefully and contentedly in the gigantic paw of a big sweaty prehistoric mutant ape. What to do? What to do?”
Jack Black on the other hand is miscast as Carl Denham. He has the right look and physical presence, (his high -waist pants add a nice historically accurate touch to his character) but he’s just not a strong enough actor to effectively, believably convey all the inner machinations of Denham. I felt especially let down by his delivery of a few of the biggest most crucial lines, (“I give you Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!” for example) his inflection literally deflated the impact for me.
Kong himself is a wonder of animation and motion capture acting. Nice job again by Andy Serkis, although him receiving the credit “And Andy Serkis as KONG” seemed a bit of a disservice to the animators. Kong’s scowl and jagged underbite show an amazing and subtle range of rage, melancholy and perplexity. His bulk and physicality have a real solidity to it, and he moves about his world with a believable ease and litheness, even for such a big guy. Kong is the character who leaves the biggest impression upon you – he’s the one you’ll be thinking of as you leave the theater.
You might also be thinking Peter Jackson needs someone in his close & trusted inner circle to tell him honestly “No Petah, turn off the camera. You don’t need that character. You’ve already got that shot. That’s enough now – 3 hours is too much.” And next film, Peter Jackson needs to listen to them or he’s in danger of pulling a George Lucas on us all.