Thursday, December 15, 2005

Kong: A Review

Saw the first (or at least nearly the first) showing of “King Kong” at my local theater last night. Thinking tickets would surely be in great demand for this much-anticipated movie, I arrived an hour and a half or so before show time to purchase in advance. It makes me feel a wee bit puny to report that there really wasn’t much demand for the tickets, in fact the ticket counter was nearly deserted, despite the fact that there was a showing in twenty minutes.

Sometimes this town just makes me feel bad. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

“King Kong” a re-make of the 1930’s original is a film by Peter Jackson, the same guy that brought you the insanely successful “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy. His Midas touch continues with this offering, a movie of positively super-epic proportions. What “Raiders” was to the eighties, "Jurassic Park" was to the nineties, “Kong” is to the double-oughts.

Jackson made some interesting and, I think, refreshing casting choices. Jack Black plays Carl Denham, the filmmaker, and Adrian Brody, Jack Driscoll, the kidnapped script writer. These two somewhat ordinary looking men, at least by tinsel town standards, add considerably to the whole believability factor. There is, in fact, only one man cast that is handsome in the Hollywood sense, and Jackson makes sure he is a fop. This leads us to the other leading man. A very tall, very hairy and let’s just say nontraditional looking co-star. Against this foil, Naomi Watts is radiant as Anne Darrow, the movie’s updated Fay Wray.

The film opens with a long and brilliant sequence of images and period music, setting the stage of a 1930’s depression era New Yorkish city. We meet Jack Denham, a shifty-eyed fast-talking filmmaker, as he is trying to sell his investors on funding a sea voyage to an uncharted island where he will film “never before seen footage of a lost civilization”. When he finds his investors are less than enthusiastic, Carl rushes to the pier along with cameras and cast and sets off to sea to make the film anyway before anyone can stop him.

We spend quite some time at sea getting to know the characters as Carl begins filming his movie. The ship’s engines churn constantly and rhythmically in the background, a portent of the ominous sound of a native drumbeat. Jackson takes his time telling the story, with nearly an hour of the movie elapsing before the crew arrives on “Skull Island”.

Once the ship makes landfall, this movie of off to the races with a vengeance with special effects that are simply amazing. Whether that’s because they are new innovations or because they are skillfully employed, I’m not savvy enough to know. What I can say for certain is they at times left Eva (my intrepid movie going companion) and I actually squealing OUT LOUD in our seats. And people. We are not squealers. Kong sets a new standard for action/adventure. Just when you think the action has gotten as complicated and as incredible as it can get, Jackson takes it to the next level. And then the next.

And that's not the best part. Jackson is masterful at telling the unlikely love story of the monster and the girl. Kong's incredibly articulate facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission.

Of course, I have a few quibbles. While I appreciate an unhurried story, this movie is just a tad long. Jack Black's "incredulous face" gets a little old. And, although the effects are fabulous, there are times when things are just very obviously computer generated. There was an ongoing bit about a relationship between two members of the crew that didn't really advance the story and should have hit the cutting room floor. None of this overwhelms the movie, however, or keeps me from recommending it unreservedly.

If you plan to see this movie at all (and I think you should), please for the loveofGod, see it in the theater. People who have issues with heights may be seriously effected as I'm not one of those people and I found it positively dizzying.

For sheer escapism, you simply cannot beat "King Kong".

No comments: