Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Roaring on the Edge of Pretentiousness
Ok. So I finally saw the latest remake of King Kong -- Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson's loving tribute to the 1933 original. I respect what he tried to do. And, I enjoyed large chunks of this film. But here's the thing. Did everything have to be taken up a notch (or three)? In 1933, crew members attempting to rescue the heroine Ann Darrow from Kong must face down (and kill) a raging dinosaur. Here, they must run from (and survive) a heard of them! In 1933, a scene involving a giant spider at the bottom of a ditch was scrapped. Here, Jackson not only includes a scene with giant spiders, scorpions, earth worms and beetles, he also retro-fitted a newly filmed version of the scrapped scene into the original film! In 1933, Kong battles a T-Rex to save Ann. Here, he battles four of them, all while falling off a cliff, into vines, and still holding on to the girl! Wow! Which brings me to the next point. The original made it very clear how a big brute like Kong could fall for a beautiful blonde like Fay Wray, but here, Jackson attempts to show why a blonde (like Naomi Watts) would fall for the brute! Ann and Kong bond. This Ann is not the willing participant in Carl Denham's circus (as Wray's was in 1933). Watts' Ann would rather be a chorus girl then be a party to Denham's inhumane spectacle. And while I realize, it's daring to introduce such themes of primal attraction and exploration of man's darkside (done here by frequent references back to Conrad's Heart of Darkness) much of this film walks far too close to being pretentious. Plus, it's just difficult to believe that Ann would monkey around with a 25-foot monkey (which she literally does, to make him laugh). Now that said, Kong himself looks amazing, a definite improvement on the original. But some of the digital effects here look like, well, effects. And they jolted me out of the movie, at times. Other industry-specific themes and in-jokes in the film were on the money. But honestly, I think Jackson over-reaches here, and wants to make epic, what is simply adventurous pulp. I'm willing to see this film again, and let it seep in once more, but I'm fairly certain that parts of it still won't work on repeated viewing, even as parts of it are brilliant the first time around.