Wednesday, December 14, 2005


King Kong, he said 3.0

Note: The more I have pondered this movie, the more disappointed I become. I have once again changed my score.
So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.

Like "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," I am leaving at a 3 simply because the nature of the film demands that it be seen on the big screen (see the info about our rating system) when in fact both movies are probably more deserving of a 2. Now, don't get me wrong, this movie was not terrible; it simply was nowhere near as good as Jackson and company are capable of. So much potential was squandered by self-indulgence. This review does a great job of summing up many of my thoughts on this movie. I still do not understand so much of the praise it is receiving.

I love "King Kong." Not Peter Jackson's new movie, but the original 1933 movie by Merian Cooper. I first saw it when it aired one Saturday when I was ten on our local PBS station. Since then, I had only been able to see it a few times on Turner Classics. Until the new movie came along. As good as Jackson's remake is, the best thing about it is that it caused Warner Brothers to finally release the original on DVD. The DVD is amazing, and so is Jackson's movie.

The movie looks amazing. Kong himself is a spectacle to behold. There is really nothing more to say about him except wow! The sets of both Skull Island and Depression Era New York City are fantastic. The creatures, the sunsets, the costumes, and all of the other visual elements are breathtaking.

Naomi Watts gives an awesome performance. In my opinion, this is the role that will make her a star (I know she has already headlined "The Ring" and a few other movies, but nothing that I really enjoyed or remembered). She does Fay Wray's legacy proud. She is gorgeous and has a great scream, but Watts also turns Ann Darrow into a more compelling character than simply the damsel in distress. Her Darrow is a struggling vaudeville performer who dreams of starring in a real play. Watts also deserves kudos for being able to perform so well with a character (Kong) who wasn't on set with her. In many of her scenes, she is the only thing that is "real." She sells it well, and at least part of what makes Kong so believable is how Watts interacts with him.

Unlike the 1976 "King Kong" remake, Jackson sticks close to the original story. Therefore, the film has all the great scenes that have become legendary. Kong verses the T-Rex (times three here). The creepy natives (and they are so creepy. The scariest thing in the movie to me). Ann "sacrificed" to Kong. Kong shaking the men of a fallen tree. The marquee bearing "King Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World." Kong verses a squad of biplanes atop the Empire State Building. And that classic closing line.

The movie is far from perfect however. It suffers terribly from its length. The original is 100 minutes. Jackson takes over three hours to tell the same story. He uses the "Jaws" approach in delaying the unveiling of the titular star, but he delays it far too long. The movie opens with a great montage of Hoovervilles and vaudeville set to Al Jolson singing "On Top of the World," but then it drags terribly for the next hour or so before the crew ever reaches Skull Island. Jackson's previous movies , "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, were each over three hours long, but I was never looking at my watch. This time, I was getting a little bored. I felt like Jackson was being a little self-indulgent. There is a lot that could have been shortened or cut from every act of this movie that would have resulted in a much tighter, enjoyable story. What was the point of the whole Jimmy storyline?

Other than Watts and Kong, none of the performances are all that special. Jack Black attempts to play Carl Denham as an Orson Welles type. He's okay. Adrien Brody was decent as Jack Driscoll (who is now the screenwriter), but any actor could have played that role just as good. Don't get me wrong, these performances are not bad and really do not really take away from the movie much, but there is a reason why Watts is the castmember everyone is talking about.

I also felt that the movie would have benefited from a stronger score. What's there is not bad, but it is far from memorable. James Newton Howard replaced Howard Shore at the eleventh hour so I wonder if that had anything to do with the slightly weak score. It's good, but like most of Howard's work, it doesn't really stick in my head the way a John Williams or Danny Elfman score does. I can't even hum it now.

Overall, this is a very good movie but not quite as great as it easily could have been. I highly recommend it. The ending was breath taking. It brought tears to my eyes. Be sure to see it on the big screen. It won't be the same watching it on a television screen. So go see it at the cinema, and on your way home, pick up the DVD of the original if you have not already.

P.S. Upon reading this, I realize I am pretty negative about much of this film. I really did like it, but I think I had my expectations too high. I wrote this immediately upon coming home from the theater, and I think I was just venting some initial disappointments. I plan to see it again and try to judge it anew. While I criticized a lot, the only thing that I felt really was extremely wrong was that there needed to be much more judicious editing.

What did you think of this movie?
Haven't seent he movie yet, but I am looking forward to it. Will probably go tomorrow night, and your review has got me a little more excited... Naomi Watts is gradually working her way up in my esteem...

Question though: You give the movie 5.0, but the review itself doesn't read like a movie on that level... What's the deal? And while I'm interviewing you, out of curiousity, what's your favorite movie?
Well, I really did like the movie a lot although I did focus more on negatives in my reivew. I think I might have had my expectations built up a little too much. I want to see it again though and after that my rating might change.

Why I gave it a 5? This was a little hard. I really don't like doing a quantitative rating for a movie. I just like to say yay or nay and then talk about what I did and didn't like. My partner on this site rightfully insisted on having a numbered system. So, we came up with the numbers and what they mean to us. For us, 5 means "see it now." And this movie is worth rushing to theaters to see. I refuse to rate a movie between the levels (although as you can tell Patricia always does) as it just further complicates things for me. The movie was definitely better than a 4 though, so there you go.

Favorite movie? Hard. I am a big "Star Wars" fan. I love them all with "Empire" being my fave(if forced to say one movie that is the one I usually give). Other favorites include E.T., Ghostbusters, The Breakfast Club, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, The Lion King, and Superman: The Movie. And "The Lord of the Rings." The original King Kong is pretty high up as well. Dude, there are so many. But, well, never mind. Those are a pretty good sampling.
I know your frustation with a scoring system, but I like to use them as quick-guides, so people can see if I'd recommend the movie right away. I also had that list of all of the movies I remembered seeing, and wanted to offer some kind of opinion on each one. Four stars seemed like a good way to force a "Yay" or "Nay' since there is no middle... Although 3 of 5 seems to be a weak "Yay" rather than a "middle" rating, right?
Yeah. A 3 is see it, but you don't necessarily need to be in a hurry to do so. I am impressed by your list of all the movies you've seen. I've been wanting to try to do that for a while. I have a list of all the books I've ever read so I would like to add movies in that same notebook.
Brandon, I think you might have built up your hype for this movie just a little too much. I found the movie enjoyable, and one that money would be well worth spending on, especially around Christmas time. I think not getting so hyped up for these type of movies could help with enjoying them more. Especially knowing the hit film coming up next summer you are excited about.
Yes, robbie, but this is really the first movie in a long time that I have been very excited about that didn't deliver. And that is a poor choice, because this isn't a bad movie at all just not as good as I know Jackson is capable of making (I also am beginning to feel that the media has overhyped this movie a bit much). And I didn't say the movie wasn't good.

And I am super(wink) excited about that movie next summer, but I do have many reservations. But I am not going to be someone who bashes the movie before seeing it. Same with "Kong," I said nothing negative about it until after I had watched it. I still plan to see it again (with a free ticket I am getting) and my opinions may change, but the movie was about an hour longer than it really needed to be.

And yes, as a remake, I did compare it to the original, which is better. I won't apologize for that. Watch it and you'll see.
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