Friday, December 16, 2005

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

King Kong (link has autoloading movie and sound)

Honesty, I expected better.

On the plus side, it’s an entertaining film. There are lots of creatures and death and thrills and such. It’s also very clear that the filmmakers were truly paying homage to the original film. I happened to catch the original on AMC a week or so ago, and many of the scenes are very lovingly recreated in this remake.

Unfortunately, that may have been the source of some of the things I didn’t like. The biggest problem I had with Kong can be paralleled in the CG for Kong himself. Throughout the film, I was trying to figure out what I didn’t like about him. It finally hit me when he was climbing up the Empire State Building. He’s got no physics. When he had Ann in one hand, he would let go of the building with the other and casually reach for the next window. If they had shown his feet gripping the wall tighter, or maybe made him grasp the next window in a quick movement, it would have seemed more believable. Later when he was at the top, he would reach out and find purchase on a diagonal sheet of metal without any trouble. I’m sure this seems very nitpicky, but bear with me. What was bothering me was that there was no gravity. It seemed as if Kong was not held to the rules of the world in which I wanted to believe he lived.

So here’s my leap – It was the same for all the characters. They didn’t seem fully rendered. I think I can say that I liked the actors, but not one single character. I realize this is an action film (horror film, monster film, whatever), but the actions of the characters didn’t seem to be based on the world that I know. The vaudeville show for Kong on his Pride Rock? The Coke commercial-esque Kong sliding on the frozen lake in Central Park? Those are perhaps the most obvious scenes that I couldn’t get my head around, but if we’re going to make plot-points of this movie revolve around the emotions of the main characters, why aren’t we treated to a better understanding of them?

Jack Black’s character was perhaps the most frustrating. He very possibly could be the most complex and intriguing character in the film, but we never get to know him. Maybe this was an artistic choice, or maybe it’s all on the cutting room floor. Anne and the writer’s relationship was also very underplayed.

But, this is not a love story, so let’s take a look at the action sequences. Most were done pretty well. There was a ‘bug moment’ or two that had the audience squealing (aside - why do people take kids who can barely walk to movies like this?). The problem is that things would start out ok, but then go quickly to the ridiculous.

A great example is the stampede. Everyone is running through the canyon floor and there is a herd of brontosaurus (brontosauri?) chasing after. Ok, well, it seems silly that the people can run faster, but I thought I would let that slide. But then they catch up. And the people are running under the feet of the dinosaurs (being chased by raptor-like things, natch. You can’t have a dinosaur flick without those guys – Thanks Steven). Running underneath a herd of brontosaurs. Ok. Suspension of disbelief. Ok. Move on.

It gets worse though. From the Cirque de Soleil show where Kong, Anne and a handful of Tyrannosaurus Rexes dangle and swing from vines (including the swinging Rex trying to take a chomp out of Anne every time it swings closer), to the very implausible capture to the final scene where our two human protagonists stand without difficulty in a very light breeze on the top of the Empire State Building. Oh, yeah, how did she keep those high-heels on during all this? I understand that they were really trying to capture the feel and glamour of the early movie world, but it just didn’t work for me.

The thing is, I’ll happily follow a movie into the most ridiculous worlds, but they’ve got to be believable. Aliens, Harry Potter, even Narina created worlds were you may not understand how everything works, but the things that work make sense in the context of the film. Kong in New York is placed in a world that perhaps we know too well, and he seemed very much detached – not so much in a fish out of water way, but in an ‘I can see the wires’ kind of way.

One last thing. On Skull Island, there are several scenes with blurred and jerky camera work. It was a bit jarring at first, but as I got into it, I liked the idea that we were seeing the images with the state of mind of the protagonists – unclear, confused, and in bits and pieces. Then it stopped. Did they give up on this idea after a couple of tries and just leave it in the film? If not, why didn’t we get more of that? Sloppy.

Again, I did enjoy the movie. There are lots of fun bits. It’s just not what I was hoping it would be. I won’t say that you’re better off seeing the original, though. Let’s just say that you should see both. I will say that if you do want to see this one, see it in the theater. A lot of what is good about this movie is its bigness. It’ll lose a lot in the transition to the small screen.

King Kong 6/10

1 comment:

Camera Obscura said...

"brontosaurus (brontosauri?)"

Apatosaurs. They've decided there's no such thing as a brontosaurus. To which I say: don't tell Fred and Wilma.

"But, this is not a love story,"

Ooh. Apparently the PR people feel differently.

Gak, I wish you hadn't said the stuff about the CG gravity. Now I'm gonna watch for it when I go see the flick, and it'll bother the heck outta me.