King Kong

King Kong (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Peter Jackson
viewed: 12/22/05 at Loews Metreon Theatres, SF, CA

I was actually looking pretty forward to seeing this, the latest blockbuster from Peter Jackson, a major remake and homage to the classic 1933 horror film. I guess it’s my childhood affection for the old horror films or something and Jackson has had a good track record, nothing more impressive than his Tolkien trilogy, the mammoth undertaking that ultimately nabbed him an Oscar for directing and best picture.

Oddly enough, I was catching some part of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) on tv the other day and I was thinking how corny and overdone the sentiment in that film was, and this vaguely new-agey Society for Creative Anachronism-ish thing… It was striking me altogether less impressive and a bit simpy.

King Kong is impressive, particularly in the way of visual design. I think what struck me the most was the visualization of 1933 New York (Jackson set this film in the period that the original was created). And it’s fascinating, with wide views of the NY cityscape, the 1933 Times Square, and of course, the Empire State Building, much more monumental towering above the city whose structures don’t begin to bury it. I was just up in the Empire State Building for the first time a couple of months ago, so it was an interesting “perspective” on the visualization of the city. It’s the most-digitized city in feature films, and the version that most recently comes to mind is the one from Gangs of New York (2002) set about 70 years earlier but equally interesting in its interpretation. I don’t know why this seemed the most significant aspect of this film for me.

It’s a massive film at 187 minutes, nearly doubling the length of the original. And it makes you wonder, “Is this really an epic? Or is an epic the only length of film Jackson knows how to make after the Rings trilogy?” It’s clearly overdone. It reaches heights of simpering soft-eyed emoting that tend to choke one rather than choke them up. As an aspect of the homage, Jackson’s film and characters lack cynicism, I guess some assumption or treatment of “a more kinder and gentler era”? The way it shapes up is some schmaltz that is schmaltzier than this side of schmaltzville. The most painful moment of which is the ice-sliding sequence with Kong and Ann Darrow in the park. It really reeks of those Christmas-y Coca Cola commercials with the digitally-animated polar bears. It’s cuteness with a quotient of the nth degree and sappier than hell.

And for me, it really brought the movie down. There perhaps could be edited out of this film a pretty good flick, losing some of the “bonding” between Kong and girl, some superfluous action sequences with dinosaurs and killer bugs, and just cutting some unnecessary character development.

The cast is charming enough and the action is entertaining, but nothing really shines here. It’s disappointing, but still fun enough, I suppose.

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