Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cinema 2005: Kong is long but still, uh, falls short

The 2005 remake of "King Kong" (1933) is so long it cries out for a film editor with floor space. But despite its length, director Peter Jackson has for the most part succeeded in putting together a well-paced moving picture, or two.

Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) survives the savage jungle on Skull Island with her lipstick unsmeared, exhibiting more skills along the way than a memoir-writing geisha.

The problem is that Jackson’s computer-generated gorilla looks like a buddha and acts like Shrek. King Kong in this film is an anthropoid with aspirations, longing human-like for beauty and transcendence. You expect to see cave drawings in the big guy's lair.

Kong is also a surly and spoiled audience of one, who is a sucker for a pretty face, and Darrow captivates him with her ‘tude and vaudevillian shtick. Before long this campy couple is sharing a sunset together, spoiled only by the girl’s insistence at verbalizing the moment. In an excess that goes beyond camp, Beauty teaches Beast to sign.

Even though credit must go to Jackson for the superb job he does juggling computer-generated images with scenes featuring more pedestrian talent, i.e., actors, the emphasis put on the monsters eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns. And what is diminished is the human aspect of the story; the big truth that Watts’s character is first to realize.

For all the praise given the film's New York City set, viewers can be grateful Hollywood's gargantua wastes little time sightseeing. Instead, Kong cherche la femme, and anyone--man, woman or primate--who has been disappointed in a relationship can surely identify with the gorilla’s reaction when he discovers there is more than one blonde on Broadway.

One strong point is the fantastic musical score, which combines Max Steiner’s original music with new compositions by James Newton Howard. Oddly, the poignant irony of Al Jolson's "On Top of the World," heard in the opening sequence, is parodied at the film's end. Darrow, in denial of both monkey love and vertigo, stands atop what's left of the "Gorilla Building," cleaving to Jake (Adrien Brody), the man she crushed on before her forced fling with King Kong.

Meanwhile, 102 stories below, Denham (Jack Black), the man responsible for capturing Kong, surveys the creature’s corpse and briefly suffers gawkers before pronouncing the movie’s terse, and in this remake, much anticipated epilogue.

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