December 16, 2005

King Kong: Guys Movie Night

An overload of the senses, Peter Jackson's loving remake of the (still-powerful) 1933 monkey movie is overstuffed and overexcited, but the excessive creeps, thrills, and scares don't distract from the powerful, authentic romance at the center of the film. Kong himself is a masterpiece. Just as director Jackson and actor Andy Serkis trancended special effects in creating Gollum, the CGI Kong is seamlessly rendered on the big screen. I never spotted any sign that Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) was not actually interacting with Kong. I believed every second of it. Kong is imbued with personality, feelings, and a whole character. None of the characters talk about Kong: there is no pointless speculation about his history, his life on the island, his enemies, his food supply, his relationship with the natives: In a wonderful example of "show, don't tell", we discover a rich tapestry of the ape's life through the graceful storytelling (or 'story-showing') of Peter Jackson.kingkong

Yes, the movie is three hours long. The movie starts pretty briskly: Renegade filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) escapes New York on the SS Venture with his cast, crew, and screenwriter (Adrien Brody) before his studio can pull the plug on his production. Once on the boat headed for the South Pacific, we are stuck with subplot seasickness: Jackson introduces a completely unnecessary (and easily excised) coming-of-age subplot with a stowaway-turned-cabin boy (Jamie Bell, aka Billy Eliot at age 19) and the first officer (Evan Parke) who tries to teach him to become a man. WHO CARES! Did Peter Jackson find this cliche on the cutting-room floor of the 1933 film and decide to intergrate it into the new movie? All I know for sure is that the movie could have spared its omission.

The movie's violence and creepiness inch towards R-rated territory in two areas: The ruthless savage natives of Skull Island are truly spine-chilling and bile-raising, and in my opinion, cross the line between entertainment and unwatchable terror. Speaking of unwatchable, the bug sequence, where the expedition is trapped in a pit of giant locusts, maggots, spiders, and scorpions, was unwatchably disgusting. If I see this movie again, I will step out for some gummy worms from the concession before I have to watch men eaten by giant maggots (shudder).

By the time Kong has been lured into a chloroform-soaked trap, you truly understand why Ann Darrow is drawn to Kong, and begs the men to leave him alone: he may be 25 feet tall, but this gorilla cares more for this tiny blonde than any human ever could.

THEATER NOTES: I saw this with my friends Phil and (I think) Angus too. Picture this: Kong has escaped the theater and has been chased across midtown. He suddenly pauses in the middle of the street when he spots through the mist, Ann Darrow striding towards him. The soundtrack is nearly silent when...Phil's BlackBerry starts ringing! The BlackBerry is hidden away in one of Phil's coat pockets, and he can't find the right zipper, so in order to muffle the ringing as quickly as possible, he simply clutches the whole coat to his chest! We later discovered the caller was our friend Peter, who arrived late, to see if we wanted to meet for dinner.