KING KONG IS GREAT
I hold the 1933 original Kong dear to my
heart. It's one of my favorite movies of all time, and I never tire of
watching it. It's high adventure at its finest and the first real American
monster movie. The 1976 remake was one of the most shameful and
embarrassingly stupid movies ever released and its stigma has been a tough
one to shake. You gotta give credit to Peter Jackson for using his Lord of
the Rings clout to remaking his favorite childhood film. His love and
respect for the source material coupled with his unequalled skill at
telling exciting stories, make King Kong 2005 a fantastic work of art.
I can't say I like it better than the original, but I feel its a worthy
twin brother. Most things work just as well, many things work better. Only
a couple things don't quite click.
What kicks ass?
The natives of Skull Island are fucking scary. With an unearthly shade of
black skin, teeth that certainly have never seen a toothbrush, and
bloodshot eyes that practically look demonic, they're more terrifying than
Kong himself. The scene where Ann Darrow is offered up to Kong has them
chanting and writhing like some Haitian Voodoo ritual from Hell. Several
of the natives have their eyes rolled back into their head. Remember that
spooky African kid in The Exorcist 2? Imagine a whole tribe of him and
you'll have a pretty good idea of what they're like. Kudos to Jackson
paying homage to the original film's Natives, however, in the Broadway
show "recreation" of the events during the film's second half.
In the original film you get an awesome Kong vs. T. Rex fight. Jackson ups
the ante with a Kong vs. THREE T. Rex showdown that is nothing short of
awesome. Watching Kong fend off and brutalize these great looking dinos
while holding Ann in his hands is a thing of beauty. The fight is a tad
bit on the long side, but its hard to complain about too much monkey on
Naomi Watts is fantastic as Ann Darrow. Fay Wray is certainly the
prototype scream queen, but Watts is given an awful lot more to work with
in Jackson's film. While Wray did little more than shriek her head off,
Watts' Darrow forms a realistic and logical connection with Kong that is
both touching and complex. Kong actually gets fed up with Darrow early on
in the film, and comes back to rescue her. Unlike the original film, in
which Kong has a somewhat sleazy interest in the girl (fingering her
boobies and sniffing his finger), she provides a comforting and peaceful
presence for him in this one. And he, as her protector.
Airplane fight! WOW! Its exciting and bittersweet. You'd have to be an
alien to not know how it all comes down, but the payoff is exhilarating
and tragic all at once. You may have seen Kong swat one of the planes out
of the sky with a spectacular leap in the trailer, but the way he disposes
of a couple others got an audience full of cheers.
What works well
Jack Black is great as the huckster/showman/filmmaker Carl Denham. A lot
of people bitched about his casting, but once you see that his character
is NOT a hero and a PT Barnum figure it makes perfect sense.
What doesn't quite work
Adrien Brody is a fine actor, but I never bought him as a hero in this
movie. There's a sequence in which the crew is beings chased by a
brontosaurus/raptor stampede, and Brody's Jack Driscoll jumps in the air
and with a kick to the head knocks a couple of them down and out. I have a
hard time the feeble looking Brody could knock me down, let alone an half
ton dinosaur. The chemistry between Brody and Watts seems false, and his
character serves more as a foil to fuck up the bond between her and Kong,
than someone she would actually be in love with.
Anyway...loved it. It's a great remake of a great movie. You can see where
every dime of the budget was spent, and its a thrilling film experience,
the likes of which you won't often see.
Now that Peter Jackson is through with adapting this and those Tolkein
movies, I hope he takes a good break, and can treat us all to a good old
fashioned sleazy zombie movie that he does so well.