Sunday, December 18, 2005

Peter Jackson's King Kong: Movie-making on Steroids

Peter Jackson should have listened to Woody Allen's joke about speed-reading War and Peace ("It's about Russia"). For much of its, seemingly interminable, duration the audience could be forgiven for forgetting that King Kong is about a monkey. After squandering 200 million dollars on this unfocused mess of a movie, Jackson should be denied similar absolution.

Jackson, surfing on a swell of sycophancy after his Lord of The Rings trilogy, has delivered three movies in one this time round. The stress of updating his "all-time favourite film" saw (the now streamlined) Jackson shed the pounds, but he diverted all the excess calories into the movie. Each pumped-up segment of this terrible triptych weighs in at around an hour, but seems infinitely longer. The titles attribute to Jamie Selkirk the oxymoronic accolade of "editor", though his primary duty seems to have been "caretaker of a fastidiously tidy cutting room floor." Either that or he ended up, like most of the rest of the tediously over-elaborated minor characters, as Kong bait.

This movie wasn't so much in need of cutting as disembowelling. Jackson should have hired Jack the Ripper rather than Jamie the faux-Snipper: I'm just glad he had the cajones to cut one sequence (the return journey from Skull Island) or I might have had to lodge an application for parole from Kong Pen after 4 hours of incarceration.

The 3 segments can be broken down pretty much like this:

1- The milieu is Depression-era New York. Al Jolson crooning I'm Sitting on Top of the World is used as an ironic counterpoint to the images of hardship. Good girl vaudeville actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) loses her job, decides she'd rather steal food than work at a burlesque club and is "rescued" and recruited by unscrupulous movie director Carl Denham (Jack Black). As Jackson parsimoniously propels the tale forward at a couple of gears below "leisurely", I have to be restrained from shouting "Show me the monkey!"

2- This is the part where Denham, Darrow, scriptwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), the movie within the movie's male lead Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler) and a boatload of bait sail to Skull Island and, after some Titanic-style shenanigans, end up at "Isla Mordor", a genetically modified Jurassic Park/Lord of the Rings hybrid. The natives aren't just restless; they're damned ugly too. I'll give Jackson the benefit of the doubt and assume that he intended these sequences to be an authentic recreation of the original (including it's relatively "innocent" -- in the context of the era in which it was made -- approach towards racial stereotyping), as I can't believe he intended to produce material that makes D.W. Griffith look like Spike Lee.

3- Kong on Broadway. I fell asleep during this part, so I'll continue describing the "Isla Mordor" bit instead. It doesn't take long to figure out why Jackson's natives look so care-worn: the rest of the fauna of Skull Island are predators on physique-enhancing drugs. The movie loses focus here and it's not entirely clear whether the emaciated natives built the giant wall to keep out the aggrandized ape, the distended dinosaurs, the steroidal spiders or the massive maggots. It seemed pointless speculating upon such minor incongruities as "How on Earth, or indeed any habitable planet, did the Brontosaurus stampede cost a mere four lives?", "How did Miss Darrow survive being tossed and twisted like a trout in a tsunami during Kong's face-off against the trio of T-Rexs?", "What exactly did Jackson think the Attack of the Omnivorous Arachnids/voracious maggots et alia added to the proceedings apart from an additional 15 minute of unmitigated, CGI-enhanced tedium?" & "Surely the kid blindly blasting the bloated bugs from Jack Driscoll's body with a rifle might just have caused some collateral damage to the scriptwriter?" -- maybe he took out the real scriptwriter instead and blasted the director's brains into the bargain? -- as absurdity is heaped upon absurdity until Jackson erects an Everest of Imbecility.

I dreamt I awoke, briefly, during the final segment, but the vision of the giant monkey ice-skating with Naomi in Central Park must surely have been a product of my fevered imagination rather than Jackson's. Sadly, I did wake up in time to hear Jack Black utter the "immortal" line, "Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast."

I just wish Naomi had taken that job in the burlesque club: that's the movie I wanted to see.... with David Lynch directing.


A.D.M. said...

Give it a break! It is only fantasy! Peter Jackson has done a great fantasy movie and that is it!

What did you expect to find on the bloody island? Only Kong sitting alone? It's the bloody Skull Island... it needs some fantasy creatures... And of course KK needs some play friends... and those dinos were a good match for him.

I dont know if the movie deserves any awards, I do not know if the movie is going to be as famos as the first one, but what I know for sure is that it was a good movie, worth watching... and I would have liked to see the travel back, because I am still confused how they carried KK back home. So, I hope they will put this on the DVD.

A- from me for the movie!


mark said...

ha ha, :) excellent wit/observation.
I haven't even seen it yet but the trailers been giving me panic attacks!
..I wonder if the video game will be as good?
Peace and goodwill bruddha.

Bruce Hodder said...

Am I missing something, or is it unlikely that a massive ape would fall in love with a tiny human? Isn't the equivalent one of us discovering romantic feelings for a dog?
But what do I know. I thought "Lord of the Rings" was crap too.

Dunzo said...

The real mystery here is figuring out whether the L2 configuration is going to hold up to the internal heat. The combustion is for the upper manifold leaving the shinter to get the skinny I suppose. Only lab tests will reveal the short comings of this newest strain. I'll keep my fingers crossed...

Ms. O said...

I think the overall movie is not bad, but not great. Awesome special effects, but not very good cast.

Kelley said...

great review-I'd like to see the movie on the big screen to get the "scope," but now I'm having second thoughts.
BTW-Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities.

eugene ionesco said...

"Am I missing something, or is it unlikely that a massive ape would fall in love with a tiny human? Isn't the equivalent one of us discovering romantic feelings for a dog?"

Yeah, I imagine Kong is meant to represent the Alpha Ape missing from an increasingly metrosexualised world, but I still think Naomi could do better -- the bit where she performs a few vaudeville routines (to make him laugh) and then he smashes up his jungle hideout (as soon as she stops) tends to suggest this relationship was doomed right from the start.

"I'd like to see the movie on the big screen to get the "scope," but now I'm having second thoughts."

Don't let my review put you off, Kelley: I'm notoriously hard to please and I was exhausted after a hard weekend...if it had been the greatest movie ever made, I'd probably still have fallen asleep in the middle of it. It was, for the most part, entertaining nonsense; there was just far too much of it.

The Unadulterated Cat said...

Ha Ha review. Now I want to see the film and read the review again, coz 1, it would be funnier and I would nod more often appreciatively. 2, I'm jobless ad its christmas season that leads us to do pointless masochistic things.
<=>I just bought a toothbrush shaped like a skyscraper atop which sits spiderman.

Geordie said...

U Gene, very adept at writing satirical reviews. I took my family to the film last evening for our traditional NYE outing. Yes, last year was LOTR and this year it was Jackson again. I would have preferred Geisha but was outvoted to see Kong. Unlike yourself I managed to keep myself awake through the whole "adventure", thanks only to the lovely Naomi Watts. She does look marvelous on the big screen. I was really hoping for the monkey to say the word "beautiful". That would have made the film spectacular. In a nutshell - loved Naomi, can't take Brody's nose, Jack Black belongs in comedy, would have enjoyed a love scene. C'mon monkey!