December 26, 2005

Going ape. . . not

I loved Naomi Watts in King Kong but, unfortunately, that was all that I loved about the movie.

I was old enough to watch the remake in the 70’s—that one featured Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange and had a totally irrelevant scene where the big age nudged off Jessica Lange’s top—and that one sucked big time.  This new remake did not suck big time but it was no great shakes either.  And like the first remake, there were a lot of irrelevant scenes as well (all the dinosaur scenes, for instance).

Obviously, Peter Jackson put in a lot of work on this movie, particularly the special effects but that was about it.  I did not see why it took 3 hours to tell this story;  it could have been told in much, much less.  This reminds me of Titanic;  and I say this with a heavy heart because, after all, Peter Jackson brought us the glorious The Lord of the Rings and, until King Kong, it would have been almost sacrilegious to mention Peter Jackson in the same sentence as Titanic.  But halfway through the film, that was what I felt and, when Kong finally got to New York and on top of the Empire State Building, it was all I could do to keep from yawning.

All the passion that Jackson obviously had for Kong is evident but this film shows passion will bring you only so far;  the material is thin and the premise hokey.  Also, while a good film is an invitation to suspend disbelief, the invitation must also be reasonable and logical.  Kong’s invitation to suspend disbelief is not reasonable nor logical.  There is no attempt to explain how Jack Black’s character is able to obtain the map, how dinosaurs managed to survive—and only on that island, how all the insects and animals there are large and how a shipload of male sailors could survive the trip without killing each other over a particularly luminous Naomi Watts (as the only female on board a veeery long trip).  There is so much that Peter Jackson does not bother to explain about Kong;  all he does is invite us to suspend disbelief—and because of this, it borders on hubris.

The one bright—luminous—spot in the film is Naomi Watts.  She is perfect for the role and makes it totally logical why Kong would go ape over her.  Not only does she inhabit the role of a talented vaudeville player with nowhere to go because of the depression but she also essays the part of a starstruck ingĂ©nue—to Adrian Brody’s character and also to Kong--to perfection.  Not only is she beautiful to look at, but she does so much with a very limited role.

Too bad that Peter Jackson had to follow-up The Return of the King with King Kong (even if this was really the movie he wanted to make and managed to make it only on the strength of the 11 Oscars of LOTR:ROTK).  It remains to be seen if he manages to recapture the excitement he generated with the The Lord of the Rings trilogy with his next film after Kong.  I hope he does, because he has shown that he is a director not only wit talent but with vision and that’s very rare these days.

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