Thursday, December 15, 2005

'It's Not An Adventure Story'

That's what the 'Jimmy' character in Peter Jackson's King Kong says in one of its many meta moments, and it's true. I got out to see Kong today, taking my chances with the cold and the local transit system, an adventure in its own right. There are SPOILERS in this, but you all know the story anyways... Kong isn't perfect, but it's definitely a visual masterpiece. The scenes at the end on the Empire State Building and of 1930's NYC especially are staggering. The Skull Island stuff, which was what I was looking forward to most, is where Peter Jackson lets his imagination run free. That's a good thing, because he's got an Olympic-caliber one; the brontosaurus train wreck is UNBELIEVABLE, as is the 3 on 1 Kong/V.Rex battle royale, but it all goes on too long. The movie does, too, a half hour really longer than it needs to be. That's odd, considering how much time is spent at the top setting up the characters. Once Kong shows up, it stops being a character piece (which is fine) and by the end, entire characters and arcs are dropped (Jimmy adds up to nothing) and you wonder why they bothered with them in the first place.

There were some spotty moments of underwhelming compositing, where you have live action people running in front of or around CGI stuff in broad daylight that looks pretty bad considering how amazing most of the rest of it is. Kong himself is a bigger achievement than Gollum, a real character. He may be the biggest achievement in effects ever, but I'd point more to Andy Serkis' performance than the CGI. The thing that kicked me in the gut is Kong has my dog's eyes. That old, cloudy brown, they're the same eyes. It really got me at the moment of Kong's death, when his eyes are really all we see of him.

He's spoiled by love, by human interaction the way humans spoil paradise (if you can call Skull Island paradise) and you're left to wonder what the film wants to say about that. Setting the film back in the 30's is an inspired choice, because that's really when the last time there was still mystery in the world. Stories of exploration and lost worlds are impossible in today's world, where we've taken all the romance and mystery out of our lives and replaced it with endless, mindless minutae that everyone knows without really knowing. The only lost worlds left are the ones we find in the cinema or on TV, but even then we commercialize them the way Denham does, squeeze all the life out of them before moving on to the next big thing.

Some are already comparing 'Kong' to 'Titanic' and while I was watching it, I certainly had the same feeling of being swept up in that old fashioned Hollywood grandeur as I did with 'Titanic.'

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