Thursday, December 15, 2005

Animal Tales Part II: King Kong

While not exactly a Christmas movie (more of a summer thriller type), Peter Jackson's epic remake of the classic Faye Ray movie King Kong is an amazing piece of work. Running three hours (and it feels like it too-- you feel like you were on Skull Island forever running from dinosaurs and not so wee beasties in this movie) the director is swimming in the heady waters of "I can do what I want since I made so much money with Lord of the Rings". One part an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness which is alluded to more than once in the movie, one part a retelling of the original Kong movie (making it look like child's play or amateur hour), one part Jurassic Park revisited, and one part Beauty and the Beast, the story suffers from its bloated combination of elements. The CG of the gorilla is spectacular-- he looks absolutely real, as do numerous of the other creatures, but the film is frankly too long and too gory and frightening to take children to.

Judging it as an adult film then, not a Saturday morning Flash Gordon episode for children, what then should we think? The main characters Naomi Watts as the lovely Ann, Adrien Brody as the brooding writer Driscoll, and Jack Black as the sometimes inspired sometimes possessed film director Carl are all interesting choices and do their bits to keep the movie on track. The problem is it takes far too long to build to a climax, and the action on the island is so elongated it seems that the director just got carried away having fun with the CG effects.

Of course the original story line is about the paradox of how the beast is more human and humane, more capable of love (at least towards Ann) than most of the humans in the movie, including the director who is willing to risk one life after another to make his film and thereby gain fame and fortune. While the romance between Brody and Watts is a good theme, it is sublimated to the larger Kong story, and the relationship between Ann and the gorilla of course really steals the emotional spotlight. Her maternal instincts want to protect the gorilla, the gorillas male instincts want to protect her, and most everyone else except Driscoll seem to want to exploit the poor animal. Animal rights activists could have a field day with this movie, and certainly as well the portrayal of all the savages on the island as black or dark skinned will rile more than a few who are concerned about skin color stereotypes.

But are there some good things that can be said about this over budget and over indulgent film? Well yes. The scene with the gorilla and the girl sliding on the ice at Central Park is magic. There are a variety of other scenes which are humerous particularly some of the interaction between Ann, trying to entertain Kong and Kong's response. One must hope though, that Jackson in the future will do a better job of editing, and I do not say this because modern audiences have a short attention span, though that is sadly true. I say this because the film suffers without the best editing. The film ends with the line, "It is beauty that kills the beast". In this case it seems that Jackson's love for the story is what prevents him from presenting it in a more compelling way.

6 comments:

Matt said...

Of course the original story line is about the paradox of how the beast is more human and humane, more capable of love (at least towards Ann) than most of the humans in the movie, including the director who is willing to risk one life after another to make his film and thereby gain fame and fortune.

Can you explain this rather cryptic comment? In what sense is Jackson risking "one life after another to make his film and thereby gain fame and fortune."?

Matt said...

I'd just like to point out that Ben said the first half of my previous post. Silly me for not properly quoting it.

Ben Witherington said...

Not Jackson, the director in the film itself--- Carl-- aka Jack Black

Ted said...

Who is more like Jesus, the Aslan of the Narnia movie or this King Kong?

Ben Witherington said...

What a good question. But Kong's merciless attack on others and self-protective violence is certainly not very Christ like so the answer is easy.

Ted said...

I considered Kong's destruction as limited, compared with other beasts, and largely purposeful in protecting the one he was aiming to save. Kind of like God in the OT acting through Israel's military to save his people, compared with the unrestrained aggression of other ancient armies. The Aslan of the Narnia film, while sacrificing himself as Christ did, in overall impression seemed to be "Jesus light" and, though certainly inspiring to the children, not as prominent as one would have hoped.