Thursday, January 19, 2006

Movie / King Kong (2005)

KING KING (2005)
Directed by Peter Jackson

This movie is definitely not for anyone who's afraid of heights, or has any fears of being trampled by dinosaurs, or eaten alive by a long assortment of digitally-generated creatures, many of an exotic or pre-historic nature.

It got a zero from the SF critics, but the theater was 95% full in the middle of pouring rain. (In my opinion reviewers should assign two scores, one for what they think, and another for whether the masses would enjoy it, which would often differ.)

I see this as an extended director's cut. The plot could have fit into 90 minutes, but it runs 3 hours. Almost every scene runs longer than necessary to make its point, but you just sit there, looking at one long action sequence after another, each well-enough written and/or art-directed to hold you in place. It's quite a bargain - two action films worth of viewing for the price of a single ticket (or DVD rental).

Some have commented that the film is racist. The human natives of Skull Island are portrayed as cannibal primitives with no redeeming value. In defense of the writers, from what I've read, when white folks landed on many islands, that's what happened, the natives ate and/or sacrificed them. And here their sacrifice of the white girl to the giant forest ape is a key piece of the story line.

On another level, it's the ultimate white female / black male story. Initially Kong probably plans to eat her, but after a while they bond and fall in love, and Kong saves her life numerous times, most notably by killing three large dinosaurs at once. Forget realism. After all the rough handling (which goes on and on) she should have been turned to mush. And the endless attempts by all concerned to eat her... when there were so many larger things to eat....

The film is also subtly self-referential. The main character is a self absorbed producer who's way over budget and trying to film his movie (in the 1930's) on location in the jungle, killing many of his staff in the process. We get the distinct impression that he's a stand-in for Peter Jackson himself. Also the famous writer, who has produced only 15 pages of script, is kidnapped and forced to live in a large animal cage -- surely a metaphor for how producers / studios feel about writers.

I never saw the original, so can't comment on the fidelity or lack thereof, but this will surely stand up as the Kong of Our Time, until some future director comes along with a big enough ego and budget to better it. NOTE: Dozens of people are killed, many after being trampled or tossed by the ape, but all that suffering stays off camera.

Originally Posted 12/31/05