Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Oh yeah. I saw Kong.

As far as remakes go, Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong kicks the banannas out of the Dino De Laurentiis version from the '70s. Yes, it's way too long--just off the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen cuts that would easily get it down below the 2:30 mark with no impact on the overall story (what the heck was all that "Heart of Darkness" nonsense? Film school "symbolism" that had no payoff. Shame on you, Jackson. You're better than that!).

I was very, very worried about Jack Black being anywhere near this film, much less his being in such a crucial role as Carl Denham. But to my surprise, he worked well for the most part. This version of Denham is played much like a chronic gambler--compelled to risk everything for that elusive payoff, no matter how many people are hurt or swindled along the way. Denham wasn't evil, but the was definitely amoral and oblivious to the impact his actions had on others. Naomi Watts was perfect as Anne Darrow. Inspired casting. The other actors... they filled their roles adequately. Adrien Brody has little to do with the role of Jack Driscoll. He's pretty much along for the ride on this thing, and as such is a pretty passive leading man. In Jackson's original script for Kong, Driscoll was a disillusioned WWI flying ace that takes part in the dogfight atop the Empire State Building in defense of Kong. This final version of the remake, however, sticks closer to the original film. Jack's SOL, and Kong, Anne and the biplanes have the finale to themselves.

So, all in all, the flick's a winner. Heavenly Creatures is still my favorite Jackson film, however. The original Kong, which I first saw in college, still had a stronger impact on me. I was expecting something, well, primitive. But the storyline and special effects--particularly the effort spent on giving Kong a tangible personality--shocked me. I was amazed at the originality and sophistication in that 1933 movie. This 2005 edition can't say the same, and instead has to rely on technical dazzle, which it accomplishes admirably.

Of course, I have to confess I've always been more of a Godzilla fan than a King Kong fan. I came across Godzilla at that tender adolescent age where I lived and breathed dinosaurs. Land of the Lost was the highlight of my week. So even awful Godzilla flicks like Godzilla vs. Megalon drove me bonkers with excitement. Can you imagine my excitement when I first beheld the wonders of Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster which featured not only Godzilla and this new, three-headed dragon, but also Mothra and Rodan? Wow. At that time, I only knew Kong through King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes. So I'm hard-wired for Godzilla. The trouble is, with the exception of the original 1954 Godzilla movie, there's never been a Godzilla film that could actually be called good. Entertaining? Yeah. Fun? Absolutely. Good? Not really. And to make matters worse, the big-budget American Godzilla which should have been great instead missed the point in every way possible, and was instead more of a limp Reptilicus remake than a Godzilla film. So despite the fact that I like Godzilla more than Kong, I have to say that Kong now has two excellent movies to his credit, while the big lizard hasn't managed to reach any more substance than he had back in 1954.

Is there any hope of Peter Jackson doing a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla? Boy, that's one I love to see!

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