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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Film Review: King Kong

Last weekend as a part of our "executive Christmas party," my parents and I went to see King Kong. There are certainly pluses and minuses to it, as there are with all movies, but overall it was I found it to be worth seeing though it did not live up to the hype or the caliber we have all come to expect from director Peter Jackson.

The special effects were great, without a doubt. Though the dinosaurs and giant bugs could still be picked out as being CG, for the most part Kong himself was realistic enough for me to suspend my powers of disbelief for the length of the movie.

Jack Black played the part of the desperate filmmaker in search for something new and exciting quite well. It is a bit over the top at times, but it is his obsession that drives the underlying tragedy of the plot. And Black is just crazy enough to pull it off.

Naomi Watts is certainly a beautiful actress and her wide blue eyes really captured the range of emotions that her character, Ann, goes through during the course of the film. She brought vulnerability, whimsy, and compassion to the role with her adventurous spirit and her special bond with the large ape.

There are a few scenes in the movie which I found to be especially brilliant. They aren't really spoilers but if you want to skip this part just scroll on down to the cons portion of the review. First, when Ann is taken away by Kong and is faced with her almost certain death she can do nothing but revert back to what she knows, comedy. So after going through her routine, complete with juggling and Pratt falls, Kong is literally rolling with amusement. When she refuses to do any more, Kong throws the biggest tantrum and goes blazing through the jungle like a little boy who just had his favorite toy taken away.

Next after Kong escapes from the "freak show" he stars in, he and Ann make their way to Central Park. Without realizing it, they come across a frozen pond and Kong slips and falls. The utter joy that overcomes them both is just beautiful as they continue to go sliding across the ice, spinning and rolling around like a pair of kids on a snow day. The couple got to share a dance and show that laughter really can cross great divides. Sure, it's hard to believe the ice was actually thick enough to hold his weight but you can get so caught up in the moment that it doesn't even matter.

Right at the end, atop the Emipre State Building, Ann and Kong watch the sunset as they did earlier in the movie. Remembering a motion she had made for beautiful - describing the sunset previously - Kong looks at Ann and repeats it describing her. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that Ann thinks he's talking about the sunset and totally misses his really message, but to me the more important thing is showing the tenderness of Kong and seeing how he has learned - though simply - how to communicate his feelings.

Too long. Can Peter Jackson make any movie in under 3 hours? I'm not opposed to long movies in general but the story should be strong enough to make it flow throughout that period of time so you don't even notice it. It takes over an hour for them to even get to the island where they find Kong. Again, this wouldn't be so bad if they tightened up the script some and did away with a couple of substories that were pretty meaningless.

An example of that is the friendship between the first mate of the ship and a stowaway-turned-deck hand. The deck hand tries to make off with one of Adrien Brody's pens, the first mate catches him in the act, apologizes to Brody and proceeds to tell him the boy's life story. It was, frankly, rather awkward and didn't serve the story much at all.

It's a small thing but while they are at sea I noticed that they used the same (or very similar) shot of the ship going by a number of times as a way to show a passage of time. For the editor in me it was just a little distracting.

Too many bugs and dinosaurs. Yes, this is the film that inspired Jackson to become a filmmaker and he wanted to be as true to the original as possible, but it got to be a little much.

Once Kong is finally knocked out and ready to be taken back to NYC, how do they get him on the boat? No explanation. They could've taken out the time it took to develop the unnecessary storyline above to show even the slightest bit of that part of the plot.

The last line. Coming in at #84 on AFIs Top 100 Movie Quotes, the movie closes with the line "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast." Sure, it sounds good with that whole "Beauty and the Beast" reference and it's rather poetic, but it's wrong. It is not Kong's love for Ann that led to his demise - apart from his attempts to take her back from the other humans who "saved" her. Rather, it was the greed and exploitation of those who captured him and the fact that no one would just leave him alone. Plus, to be honest, doesn't Kong maim or kill a number of people throughout the film?

All in all, though, I felt that this was a decent movie. I wasn't totally disappointed, but I wasn't blown away either. Not as epic, or as well written, as it could've been but it's worth seeing.