Friday, April 14, 2006

King Kong - Skull Island is All

I finally finished watching King Kong last night and here are my thoughts. It's very long. The first night I only got through about 15 or 20 minutes before I fell asleep. It wasn't good and I was worried. I had something riding on this movie because when I was talking to my brother about my still unposted essay Do I Still Love the Movies? (yeah, yeah, it's coming soon) he kept giving me a hard time and wanted me to clarify what I meant by "love the movies." When I kept fumbling around he said "Look, if you like King Kong, then you still love the movies."
"Really," I said "You're just going to come right out and say that? You haven't even seen it."
"Yes, I'm just going to come right out and say that."
"Well, okay."

After that first night, I called him. "I don't know, man, I watched the first part, and whoa! it's gonna be a long one. I'm twenty minutes in and I haven't even seen Adrien Brody yet. There's way too much back story and the subject can't support it. I mean, the original was in and out in ninety minutes."
"What about CGI Manhattan?"
"Well, it looks pretty good on the hi-def monitor, but it's still boring somehow, and sloppy too. With all the effects, you'd think it would've forced them to plan it better, but instead it looks like an excess of footage. Jackson starts wide with all the buildings and taxis, then goes in for a two-shot conversation, and suddenly he widens out again in the middle of it for no reason. He just can't help showing it off. It's not done in blocks, like you'd think, and there's a kind of annoying montage that tries to convey the whole city during the depression. Just too much info."
"Too much, huh?"
"Yeah, let's just say we've already seen shanty town."

The next night, somehow the planets were in alignment and my wife and I were able to watch the movie together. We started at one in the morning and saw all the way till Kong was captured. By then, it was just too late and we were too tired to continue. Besides, my wife wanted to stop there anyway. She was already in love with Kong and didn't want to get sad watching the end. It turns out she did the smart thing, but I'll get to that. Once the movie gets on the boat it begins to pick up steam. Some supporting players help it along, especially Thomas Kretschmann as the captain, Evan Parke as the first mate, and Kyle Chandler as a full of himself ham actor. My wife recognized the last from the tv show Early Edition. I don't see very many new movies so these were all fresh faces to me ( I just looked them up on imdb) and I hope to see more from them in the future.

When the ship gets pulled into the fog of Skull Island, the movie really kicks into high gear. I wasn't expecting the islanders to be Orcs, but maybe I should have, it being Peter Jackson and all. They are a particularly savage bunch, with weird get-up and strange coloration. When it started to rain, I half expected their body paint to wash off. Some of the old crones were in bad need of a shave. Well, I admire their tenacity for survival on this nasty island, anyway. What would you look like if a giant gorilla did a scary monkey dance on your community for god knows how many generations. Kong takes the girl, and after that, it's predicament piled on predicament in Temple of Doom fashion, with just one damn thing after another. We get every manner of life-threatening creature popping up and saying "Boo!", a spooky gorge bottom that is not fit for humans, and a spectacular dino-pile-up that reminded me of the elephants crashing down in Dumbo. When King Kong does battle with a couple of T-Rexes while hanging on industrial strength vines over the gorge, the acrobatics are ludicrous, funny, exciting, and great. There are plenty of How-the-hell-are-they-gonna-get-out-of-this-one moments and I heard myself saying "sheesh, Jackson you dog" a lot. By the time this island stuff was over, I was pumped and ready for Peter Jackson's 5 and 1/2 hour Sinbad movie. I wonder how long it would take him to show all seven voyages.

The final night, I called my bro again. "Well, are you up for it?"
"Up for what?"
"King Kong. The kids down for a late nap, if we start now we might get through most of it."
"I don't know."
"C'mon, you need to see Skull Island. It's gotta be one of the most inhospitable islands I've ever seen."
He agreed and we watched the whole damn thing. I could lose everything once they get back to Manhattan and never miss any of it. The problem is that in the original, people didn't know what was going to happen, and the makers just told the story: top of the Empire State Building, great ape gunned down in his prime, 'twas Beauty killed the Beast. I still think it was biplanes with machine guns, but okay. Now, though, everyone knows the story by heart, so what can Peter Jackson do? He takes the same thing and drags it out in color and lyricizes it. Slo mo with falsetto singing. It's boring and it left a bad taste in my mouth. It turned into The Passion of Kong.

So, to sum up, I spent close to 8 hours watching this movie. Much of it is bad, but if you start when they're on the boat and stop when they chloroform Kong, then you will see a hell of a movie.


Jeffrey Hill said...

I'd watch a two and half hour Sinbad - a five hour one is a bit much. But then again, I once thought I'd watch a 100 minute Kong but not a 180 minute one. Shows how much I know. Peter Jackson gave us a two hour masterpiece trapped inside a three hour body.

Edward Copeland said...

Jackson has just been infected by bloatitis after the LOTR trilogy. Is it even in his power to make a movie that isn't 3 hours long?

Wagstaff said...

Well, several people seem to agree that my title for this post is lousy, and I think they're right, but it's too late to change the title. I also searched for almost an hour looking for the photo of Skull Island I wanted, never saw it and settled for the one you see. I'm not even sure what it's from. While searching, it hit me that I found many pics from the first and latest Kongs, but almost none from the 70's version. Come to think of it, I hardly remember the island at all from that one. Was there even a tree-bridge over the gorge, shouldn't that be standard, or King Kong fighting giant beasts? The only island stuff I recall is Jessica's bath and Kong blowing her off. I saw it maybe twice on tv years ago. The only other things I remember are that Jeff Bridges had a beard,it was an oil tanker, and unlike the other movies they spent some time getting Kong back on said tanker. Also that it was the World Trade Center with helicopters. I almost have the urge to rent it, maybe as a Kong-a-thon with the original. I've seen that one many times but still want to check out the new dvd extras. Duffy was talking about the 70's one and when I brought up the end parts she missed in this new one, she still wanted none of it. Still too sad. "No more Kong. I love Kong. Kong is a combination of my grandpa Bob and my brother's dog Shorty."