King Kong (2005)

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*. At the time this was the most expensive movie ever made. Less than ten years later it was barely holding a place in the top 20. Inflation.
*. Of course when you spend a lot of money on a movie everyone wants to see it up on the screen. I guess you do here, but this is a CGI spectacle and I have trouble getting too excited about those.
*. Is this what $200 million worth of computer animation looks like? Some scenes really fail to impress. The brontosaurus stampede looks terrible, due mainly to some awful green-screen work (I assumed when I first saw this scene that it had been shot for 3-D, but that was not the case). And the backdrops, even of the cityscapes, look like the generic artwork commonly found in today’s videogames.
*. More than anything else, I felt like I was watching Lord of the Rings Part 4. Peter Jackson has a really limited visual imagination, I’m afraid. The ginormous flaming wall with its drawbridge looked like a model for Mordor, and not something a bunch of stone-age villagers would be able to operate, much less build. Indeed all of Skull Island has the same Tolkien flavour, with its sublime mountains and forests and waterfalls and cloudscapes. It’s painting with computers.
*. Roger Ebert (who gave the movie four stars and named it one of the ten best films of the year): “King Kong is a magnificent entertainment. It is like the flowering of all the possibilities in the original classic film. Computers are used not merely to create special effects, but also to create style and beauty, to find a look for the film that fits its story.”
*. I wonder if audiences still feel the same way only ten years later. Are we as impressed? I don’t think so. This movie is the pure product of technology, and nothing dates as swiftly.

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*. But is there any way you can say that a Kong movie is “too much”? As the Godzilla ad line went, “size matters.” Kong is the eighth wonder of the world and I’m assuming the goal was to go big or go home.
*. Part of that “more is more” philosophy is also felt in the bloated running time. 187 minutes. That’s the version I saw. You can also watch an “extended version” that tacks on another fifteen minutes. I think it could have cut a lot. Characters are needlessly multiplied. Instead of just having Denham and the ship’s first mate now we have Denham, the captain, the first mate, the writer, the leading man, and a really useless new character named Jimmy. The back story of Ann and Carl’s flagging careers in show business goes on too long. Even some of the action sequences could have been cut. The aforementioned brontosaurus stampede was repetitive, as was the fight with the T-Rex creatures. Kong’s initial waving of Ann above the cliff only had to be shown once instead of three or four times.
*. Wow. And I thought the original was a bit racist. Here the natives are doped-up, subhuman savages: refugees from a zombie apocalypse and as evil as the day they were born.
*. Do you think Lumpy and Choy were lovers? They seem very close.
*. Speaking of love, I do like the romantic interludes Ann and Kong share together, in particular her putting on a floor show for him on the cliff top and the two of them sliding on the ice in Central Park. There’s magic, if just for a moment.
*. Wouldn’t Kong have, at the very least, dislocated both of Ann’s arms when he wrenched her off the altar she was bound to? I was expecting him to break the ropes first.
*. Wouldn’t it be so windy at the top of the Empire State building that Ann would be blown off in a second?
*. Wouldn’t Kong be covered in blood after being shot so many times? As it is, all he has are what appear to be some old scars.
*. You could spend all day tearing this film apart, but I really have to mention the laughable scene where Jimmy blasts away with a machine gun at Jack Driscoll to shoot the giant cockroaches off him . . . without hitting Driscoll! That was too much.

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*. It’s hard to think of anything that Jackson really improves on here, but one is Kong’s face. This was the real weak link in the original Kong, and though Rick Baker did better in 1976, the expressiveness given Kong’s features in this film is taken to another level. It’s what makes the ending still moving.
*. I don’t have much more to say. It’s a movie that is representative of everything an early twenty-first century blockbuster is supposed to be, which is to say it cashes in on a brand name with overwhelming special effects. One can appreciate the talent and professionalism involved, but it’s still just another descendant of Jurassic Park, only with a bit more humanity. That Kong always was a comic book character helps a bit, but at the end of the day you’re still left with the feeling that you’ve just consumed a bucket of empty calories. I felt saddened, and stuffed.

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