Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Movie Review: King Kong (2005)

Why write a review of Peter Jackson's King Kong? Why not, if anything, write about the classic 1933 King Kong?  I don't always write reviews of the movies I like most.  I write reviews of the movies that strike me the most.  The new King Kong is a specific kind of terrible that opens itself to specific and substantial criticism from me.  I have something to write and it is on the tip of my fingers.  Jackson's King Kong was looking to be the perfect storm of a terrible, overindulgent, vanity piece.  A popular director, coming from one of the most popular movie franchises of all time and remaking his favorite movie.  It's more awful, indulgent and pretentious than you could guess.  I would say that the King Kong remake is worse than the original in every possible category.  It's overlong and has terrible pacing.  The acting is mostly awful.  The romance is tremendously bland.  The special effects are generic.  Kong is generic, too.  Peter Jackson's King Kong is an overindulgent mess that underperforms its inspiration in every way.

Jackson's King Kong is overlong.  Period.  The original King Kong clocks in at 104 minutes.  The new King Kong clocks in at 187 minutes, over three hours long.  Both movies literally tell the same story in the macro.  The new one, though, languishes through details.  Kong doesn't show up until maybe 90 minutes in.  A buildup is a great strategy to build suspense, but at this point I had already lost interest.  Once Kong gets involved, the story is still not tight enough.  The movie wastes our time and spreads our interest thin watching all the minor crew members die disgusting deaths through the giant animals.  The interest in Kong is thus lessened as more human beings are dying on a parallel narrative plane.  Remembering how rightfully tight the original movie was only makes this one worse and the original movie was still able to create a sense of universe and milieu.

When I saw there was a new King Kong, I thought one of the best things the filmmakers would do with it is tone down the hammy 1930s acting.  This movie takes the hammy acting even further.  Jack Black especially is even more over the top than the original guy.  This movie actually has the gall to lovingly mock the original dialogue, but they have done no better.  Every performance is a caricature.

The romantic plot in this movie was especially terrible.  This is a perfect example of a writer who doesn't know how to write real chemistry between two people and two actors who apparently don't have any, so he throws in a sex scene or a passionate make out scene to get the point across.  Adrien Brody, playing a screenwriter is one of the few underdone characters in the movie.  He is a tremendously bland beta-male who just doesn't fit with Naomi Watts' Ann Darrow character.  This partially feels like another "beauty and the geek" setup.

The special effects, of all things, to me are worse.  This should be the one blatantly obvious area of improvement, but to me, it isn't.  Yes, these very-CGI effects are technically more realistic than the original, but stop action animation has a charm that transcends realism.  The original Kong is just that, original.  The effects here were a bland retread of things that have been done better in other CGI movies.  They lack the magic and are overlong.  The original King Kong, with its seemingly endless backgrounds contributes to a feeling of endless jungle, whereas this movie, by showing too much of Skull Island in its viewpoints, only reveals its finite nature.

Kong is generic.  He is robbed of his iconic originality and turned into a generic, realist large ape.  His relationship with Ann is borderline weird as she reciprocates some of his affection.  This is where the movie gets especially pretentious and grossly overplays its cards.  Ann's sympathy for Kong downplays Kong's menacing innocence and tragic loneliness.  It also emphasizes what a terrible romantic partner Adrien Brody's character is.

In the end, Peter Jackson's King Kong is an overlong mess that endlessly indulges in excess.

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