King Kong

December 31, 2005

When the lights came up on the most recent Peter Jackson project, this past Friday, I turned to my companions and said “I just got my money’s worth.” Y’see, I saw a giant ape take on not one, not two, but three Tyrannosaurs. Kong climbed the Empire State Building, and there was lots of screaming.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism that the movie was too long, and there were some moments that I thought could have been edited down a little bit. There were ‘looking’ moments that just went on and on … In some ways I think Jackson and Co. were still in epic film-making mode from the LOTR trilogy. While those skills were useful in the middle of a series of genre-defining films, they may have been liabilities in reenvisioning what I consider to be something of a pulp-action film.

I, personally, wasn’t bored. Whenever a scene went on too long, I just amused myself by noting the deep visual environment within the film. Kong’s incredibly lifelike pelt, the atmosphere of 1930s New York, and the humid environs of Skull Island were all amazing backdrops for the film’s action. The movie’s action was terrific, with some truly inspiringly gross/thrilling/heroic moments.

The actors held up the slower-moving moments of the film admirably, with the principal players muddling through their sometimes muddy characters quite personably. Jack Black does indeed only play the one guy, but I like that guy. Adrien Brody’s Driscoll character was already someone I liked, having filled his shoes for several hours in the Kong game. Ms. Watts made for an extremely likable and forceful female protagonist; Indeed, I’m sure she would have been the bright spot of the movie for Katie had she been with us. The supporting cast was unfortunately mostly ignorable, with Thomas Kretschmann as the roguish Capt. Englehorn a notable exception.

The biggest impression the film pushes is that of place and movement. The IMDB entry makes it clear the level of detail Jackson put into recreating the film. The movement and presence WETA puts into the movie’s reality is where they step beyond the limitations of the 1933 Kong. From big to small, the creatures move extremely convincingly. Probably my favorite aspect of the creature design was their “Jurassic Park Plus” mentality. Dinosaur stampedes for the win.

Having seen the original Kong not too long ago, I felt that Jackson’s vision did captured the core elements of the first film. In some ways I share my wife’s opinion, which goes something like “Why remake a movie that’s already been made?” That said, I had a great time on Friday night at a film that I went in expecting to be nothing more than a popcorn flick.

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