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.