Jean Marie Ward

fiction, nonfiction and all points in between
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Is That a Bug in your Pocket, or Are You just Happy to See Me?

I won’t pretend I’m the mildest of women. I’m not. But I do tend to bend over backwards to give writers, editors, choreographers and movie makers the benefit of the doubt. I almost never write a bad review for the simple reasons that 1) it never makes me feel any better about wasting my time on the item to begin with, and 2) there is no such thing as bad publicity as long as you spell the perp’s name right.
But sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. And this girl’s gotta trash Peter Jackson’s misbegotten KING KONG.


I wanted to like Peter Jackson’s KING KONG. I really did. You can’t help wanting to root for a guy who charts the course of his life based on a movie that was one of your own personal lodestars. And the “Making of” features where he and his crew work to recreate the effects and some lost footage of the original movie — pure magic!

Unfortunately, as much as Jackson loved the original KING KONG, he sure as heck didn’t understand it. Bloated and pretentious, his version loses starts losing momentum at the outset with its endless, loving, almost pornographic establishing shots of Depression-era misery. Jackson wallows in an excess of visual description. He can’t ever show you one of anything, be it a bread line or a “burly-Q” routine.

Things only get worse as the movie proceeds. Much if not all of the roughly eighty minutes Jackson added to the original’s running time comes from multiplication of the original’s incidents and monsters. Jackson takes all the creatures faced by the 1933 Kong on Skull Island and multiplies them by a factor of four. He even inserts a scene shot for the original but cut for reasons of pacing before the 1933 film’s original theatrical release. More monsters do not make for more drama. They only make for more tie-ins — which, unfortunately, seems to be the guiding principle of a movie that trashes narrative credibility in the name of 1930s-era collectibles.

Jackson asks you to believe 1930s movie moguls facing a growing public outcry for movie censorship would try to up the titty quotient of a movie green-lighted for general release. He grandly ignores every pertinent detail relating to atmospheric conditions at the top of the Empire State Building, most notably wind velocity and chill factors. In addition, he appears to lack even the most rudimentary understanding of port operations and military tactics in a civil setting, both crucial to the plot.

Character development in the film seems to exist solely to set up irrelevant bits of business or bludgeon the viewer with symbolism. For example, producer Carl Denham (Jack Black) traps writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) on board a moving ship and houses him in a cage full of chloroform for the duration of the voyage. “Red shirts” trowel on the quirks, or act noble and quote HEART OF DARKNESS. I guess Jackson wanted to lend a sense of pathos to their passing. But as they plodded like so many cows to their lovingly rendered and excruciatingly extended slaughter, I couldn’t help thinking: “Better here than reading Conrad.”

Plodded like _stupid_ cows — everybody in this movie behaves like a raving imbecile except the one guy Jackson sets up as the buffoon, matinee idol Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler). Nobody else seems to cherish the slightest notion of how to extricate themselves from a tight spot. They don’t even know how to run away from a herd of brontosaurs. If the CGI actually lined up with the actors in that shot, they’d all be dead. Period. The End. No one would survive to let Jimmy (Jamie Bell), the plucky overage street kid who looks 25, shoot the giant cockroaches off their midsections with a Tommy Gun.

Yes, boys and girls, you heard me right, hero Jack Driscoll encourages a neurotic, trigger-happy punk — someone the script takes pains to tell you never fired a gun in his life — aim an automatic weapon at the three-foot-long, presumably carnivorous bug hanging off the front of his pants.

At least Brody flinches when the gun goes off. Heroine Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) never flinches. Another graduate of the plucky school of Depression-era character development, Ann gives new meaning to the words “too stupid to live.” Much as I love my high heels — and heaven knows I do — if I ever wear high heels under the circumstances of her final waltz with Kong, I formally give you all permission to shoot me. It won’t be murder. I’ll be brain dead already.

And would somebody, please, please, tell that guy from New Zealand that New York in winter, with snow on the ground and frozen ponds in Central Park, is frelling COLD. Not only that, the temperature drops as you climb what was then the tallest building in the world. Much more could be said on that point, but it touches the ending of the movie, something I really don’t want to do. I might start screaming louder than Fay Wray.

Movie lovers, save your dough. See another movie. Rent the original. The only reason this KING KONG misses being one of the ten worst movies of all times is that Jackson’s CGI ape looks better than the 1976 version’s guy in the gorilla suit.

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Posted in Blog 11 years, 8 months ago at 11:55 am.

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