Tuesday, June 06, 2006

King Kong (2005)

First off, let me say that I did enjoy this movie. It was long, but it was fun. There were some clever references to the original which amused me. But in the end, King Kong is a meta-film riff on the 1933 version similar to the pastiche novels Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts have been devouring ever since Doyle retired the detective for good.

In a sense, this rescued the film for me: the references to Fay doing "a movie for RKO" (King Kong), the dialogue from the first film serving as the dialogue for the film Denham is actually shooting, the writer named Jack Driscoll after the first mate in the original. For the first half of the movie, these touches kept me interested, but Jackson soon gets over-involved in his subject. Oddly, the first half was much the most enjoyable for me.

I believe it's clear from the first film that we are to pity Kong. It's a sympathetic story. Clearly, Peter Jackson felt that way. But his film goes out of its way to make absolutely certain the audience walks away on the gorilla's side. Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow quickly comes to respect what Kong has done for her, although she does absolutely nothing to save him until people actually start shooting. I got the sense that her sympathy was motivated by Jackson's identification rather than anything she was actually feeling herself. I did enjoy seeing her in drag at the beginning, though. Kong has pretty good taste. For the other actors, I don't understand Adrian Brody's appeal but Jack Black, usually the bane of movies he's in, has done a good job lately of reigning himself in or appearing in films (School of Rock) where he's appropriate.

As for the much-touted effects which drench this movie to the point of drowning, I found them uneven. Kong was well done (though is Andy Sirkis the only guy who can act with electrodes attached to his body?), but many of the ocean scenes were obvious blue-screen jobs which I thought could have been better, especially since they had an actual boat. The colors of the film, especially in New York, were simultaneously muted and distinct, and I think this was in order to aid the integration of the computer generated material. Fight scenes went on too long, and the giant bugs included overtly phallic creatures with teeth which I thought were a tad unnecessary. And what did all these enormous carnivores eat when there weren't any people? It's a pretty poorly designed island, diversity-wise.

I liked that many of the racist elements were kept, but in the context of 1933 show-business. However, what are we to make of the islanders as envisioned here, or indeed the ape brought over the sea in chains? These questions remain, despite the "enlightened" attitudes towards "natives." Does it strengthen the film's tragedy (and stave off accusations of slave-analogies) to tell us that Kong is merely the victim of circumstance rather than let us find the pity in our own hearts? Is it really the best move on Ann Darrow's part to avoid all contact with Kong and Denham instead of actively trying to help him? And was it just me, or did Colin Hanks' character have something for Denham?

As a side note, the theater here in Seattle has a large marquee on which is written:

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