Some thoughts on Kong
For all the references countless movies and shows have made to the 1933 version of King Kong, I have never actually watched it. The only famous scene imprinted in my thoughts of course, is the part where the mighty primate scaled the Empire State Building with biplanes in close pursuit. Having very little knowledge of the original film, I think, helped me enjoy the remake without any preempted biases or expectations.
Anyway, I had no idea why Peter Jackson decided to direct the film. However, it felt like Jack Black's character (the desperate director Carl Denham) in the early scenes draw some parallelisms to Jackson's own I assume, when the studio execs were screening his own work. "How much more of this is there?", the cigar puffing executive asks impatiently. Given the length of the movie, I read that the big wigs wanted Jackson to cut down his film by about half an hour. Well, the film still would have been a huge hit even if they did snip some scenes here and there, but I'm glad they didn't. Fortunately, they were wise enough to allow Jackson to invest more time in building up the anticipation for the arrival of Kong - as well as allow the characters to be fully fleshed out. There was simply enough time to allow us to see the people as complex individuals with personalities of their own, and not just cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill templates.
As much as I wanted to avoid mentioning the LOTR trilogy (since it would be too obvious and too cliche' to do so), that was what probably convinced the powers that be to release King Kong unbutchered. I mean you look at those three movies, clocking in at three hours each, and they have without a doubt, kicked major ass. It's all about pacing and mastery of your craft I suppose. How else could you keep people glued to the screen for so long without boring them?
On another note, Jack Black was a very good choice to play the role IMHO. He has that passionate aura going for him, just teetering at the point of madness. In most of the scenes he was in, I kept thinking back to how enthusiastic he was as Dewey Finn in School of Rock, and he carried that well into this film. But of course, what made his character different here was that he was plain desperate. As Carl Denham he was, from what I thought, against the wall, playing his last card in a game against his favor. So much so that he was willing to risk not only all that he has, but as the ship's captain pointed out, others' as well.
Oh, and I also liked how Bruce Baxter's (played by Kyle Chandler) statement effectively demystifies the culture of celebrity worship: "I'm just an actor with a gun who's lost his motivation." He has one other quote, that I felt, was taking a pot shot at Jurassic Park. Denham orders Baxter to be within sight of the camera taking footage of the nearby dinosaurs close by reasoning that "the people are gonna think it's fake."
Baxter quips: "trust me, they aren't going to think they're fake!"
And I'm sorry for not having said this right off that bat: the special effects are of course, first-rate. As my friend Clyde told me, "You can't tell the difference between live action and CGI." In this case, technology has been appropriately used as an effective tool to paint the picture that was, just decades ago, helplessly trapped in the mind's eye. In particular, the superior facial animation has made Kong a sentient being with a great range of emotions - and not just a faceless main attraction to fill in the money shot. I mean, you have to love those close ups that capture his different moods: rage, laughter, sadness, and silent contemplation.
Anyway, I just wanted to get it out of the way before I hit the bathroom (too much information eh?) and play another round of Vice City.