Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"It was Beauty that slayed the Beast..."

Mes Amis

I'm three million years behind everyone else, but tonight I went to see King Kong. Yes, Peter Jackson's epic retelling on the time ol' movie classic. Its the oldest story in the book: Gorilla meets girl, gorilla falls in love with girl, gorilla gets beaten up by hunters and taken to New York, gorilla gets knocked off the empire state building in a hail of bullets. Simple. Timeless.


Look, Jackson's made a good film here. For a start, it looks sumptuous. That cinematography is great. The gorilla himself is wonderful. NYC in the 1920's is a fantastical dream, half real, half musical era wish-fulfillment. And the cast: Jack Black is wonderful; cynical, dastardly, cowardly and charmingly opportunist. Naomi Watts is funny, beautiful and engaging - easy to see why the ape falls for her. Adrien Brody is heroic in a very traditional sense and yet somehow cuts deeper to his character when we see his devotion to Watts' character and his terrible realisation that she probably loves that big ape more than him.

The problem is that Jackson just doesn't know where to stop. The script starts strongly with excellent set pieces in 1920's New York. The journey to Skull island is slow and yet endearing as we get to know the characters on board the ship. Except already signs of bloating are seeping in with The Token Black Guy and The Young Kid with a troubled past. Neither of these guys do anything to advance the story and the possible plot of the surrogate father is aborted quickly. In fact, all the shit with the crew shoud have been canned. Give us Naomi flirting with Adrian Brody and Jack Black doing his shifty director bit (With some not very subtle jokes about Producers that one suspects Jackson really enjoyed filming).

(By the way, if you've seen any version of this film at all you know the story, so don't moan at me about spoilers or any of that shite)

The arrival on Skull island is great. Creepy natives. And then: KONG! DINOASAURS! more dinosaurs. More dinosaurs. Kong fights dinosaurs. Kong fights more dinosaurs. Naomi Watts acts cute and Kong laughs (these bits are great, actually). Kong fights more dinosaurs. You get a bit tired. The menfolk from the ship fight monsters. You start to yawn and wish they'd get a move on. Jack Black films everything in sight on that cute 1920's moving picture camera. You laugh and perk up a bit. More monsters. Dear God, just move it on, Jackson! We get it! Kong fights monsters. Monsters are cool. Monsters kill people. Just. fucking. get. on. with. it.

Skull Island, despite a strong start, becomes the biggest problem in the film. Sure, it all looks wonderful. But actions sequence following action sequence gets wearing after a while. Especially when they're all much of a same and clearly designed to show off the special effects. Things get better at the capture of Kong and its very cool to see Kong getting smashed about while suffering the effects of Chloroform (lucky the Captain had such a large amount on board and in such fucking huge bottles, too).

The problem is that Jackson wastes so much time on making it look cool that we really get bored. The story doesn't move. The characters keep wasting time. Its funny, but some of the the best bits are the talky bits, the interactions between actors and the bits where Naomi Watts manages to look like she really cares for a CGI/Andy Serkis ape (And where she gets batted about after doing a Charlie Chaplin impression for Kong's amusement). The action is cool but it just keeps going on to the point where you just wish he would quite showing off WETA's capabilities and tell us a story. Case in point: the bugs (which *are* freaky but also contribute to the most yawn-worthy part of the movie). And one more T Rex than anyone cares about.

The final confrontation between Kong and the airforce is brilliantly shot and is preceeded by some touching stuff with an ice skating Kong (no, really, and it works, too) and a beautiful view of the NYC skyline as observed by Naomi and the big ape. Its worth noting that Andy Serkis' facial expressions and body language really do add something to Kong so that he is more than just an effect.

Like I said at the start Jackson's made a great film here. I wish he'd shown us that great film as it was instead of disguising it with a bloated forty five minutes of repetitious action and pointless extra characters (And, no, Pete, the "Heart of Darkness" stuff was about as subtle as brick to the head). Its worth seeing on the big screen, of course. Cos the effects are stunning. But for the DVD, maybe Jackson could release a special "shortened" edition in the reverse to his trick with the LOTR DVDs... lots of people would thank him for it.

Au revoir



that girl said...

I now have this vision of people trying to hold this giant fucking hankie soaked in chloroform over king kongs mouth*. heheh
And russel, I don't think I've ever actually heard you say the word sumptous(sp?)
Written it yeah, but never heard.

*I rarely do footnotes but what the hey!

that girl said...

dammit that 'u' gets me every time!