Wednesday, July 18, 2012

King Kong

Like most of you, if not all, I am a big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, so I was looking forward to seeing what he did with King Kong. Now, I’m only sort of familiar with the original, but due to its cultural saturation I know the basic story, and Jackson told that story... unfortunately it took him 3 hours to do it when it could have been done in probably half the time.

As you might expect, it was visually beautiful. He managed to capture the depression era best of times/worst of times aesthetic very well. Skull island was amazing. From the fantastic geology to the various monsters, it all looked amazing! The scenes with the giant bugs should be required viewing for D+D players and DMs. The brontosaurus stampede was a little silly, but it worked ok. The Kong vs T-Rex (x3) fight was equally impressive.

What didn’t work was the overabundance of time that was spent on the scenery and the action, and so little spent on either character development or story development. For all the spectacle, I couldn’t help but feel bored, I think in large part because of the overall length of the movie, during much of which there was so little dialogue.

Even Avatar was half an hour shorter than this!

Other things that bothered me:

For all the time the beauty character (Ann Darrow as played by Naomi Watts) spends barefoot in the jungle, sliding down muddy hills, being chased by T-Rexs, giant bats, carried around by Kong, etc. She manages to remain distractingly clean.

During the fight between Kong and the T-Rex’s, Kong gets bit and kicked numerous times, all without ANY blood. In fact, for all the violence in the movie, the level of gore remains notably low, making the suspension of disbelief rather difficult (if not impossible) to maintain.

The kid shooting giant locusts off of a guy with a machine gun (which he’s never used before), and never hitting the guy.

What worked:
Jack Black’s character. His mindset was the most prototypical D+D adventurer I think I’ve ever seen on screen.

The Skull Island Natives worked really well. They were creepy, clearly murderous, and on screen just long enough to be interesting before moving on and not being seen again. Perfect!

The maps!

Overall I’d give it a 2/5. If you want to see the good bits, the fast forward button is your friend.


  1. Don't hold your breathe waiting for me to disagree with your assessment! Hahaha!

    There have been several movies like that -- too long for their own good. More editing was definitely needed here.

  2. Agreed. You can only enjoy beautiful scenery on screen for so long before wanting to go experience it first-hand. And suddenly sitting here watching this movie for another 2 hours doesn't sound too exciting.

    Peter Jackson and his team did an amazing job, nonetheless, with the animation and cinematography. So, I'm excited to see how The Hobbit turns out.

  3. Well, I disagree. The overabundances were not in the scenery & setting of Skull Island because the visuals are your only storytelling tools. They didn't spend enough time on those in my opinion. There's no tour guide, reference books, or even natives who can act as translators because they were on an undiscovered island filled with mysteries, incredible wonders of the natural world, and unseen ruins. The only way you can tell that type of story is through prolonged visuals and first person speculation. The editing should have came during the first hour of the film with too much time devoted to Depression era Manhattan, Carl Denham's sleeziness, and subplots of minor characters who will only be dead midway through the film on Skull Island. In particular, the excess focus on phony film hero Bruce Baxter, and the time spent on Jimmy the illiterate deckhand & his father figure, First Mate Mr. Hayes. Mr. Hayes is killed by Kong in the Log Chasm scene and Jimmy's storyline is abandoned soon afterwards. Bruce Baxter does have a role in the critical third act in New York when Kong is unveiled at the Broadway theatre. But there didn't need to be as much time allotted to his character aboard the ship and on the island. Peter Jackson should have followed the same blueprint original 1933 King Kong director Ernest Schoedsack did of minimizing the screen time of the story prior to arriving at Skull Island. Schoedsack gave it some zip in order to get to the meat of the story– Kong's entrance and the love triangle of Ann, Jack, and Kong that resulted from his arrival in the story. I didn't have a problem with the increased time spent on Kong in NYC, in comparison to the original 1933 film. Again, the visuals were needed to tell the story here because compared to the Big Apple of today, 1933 NYC is practically as much of an unknown lost world as Skull Island is. Regardless, I loved this film and I am very thankful for this amazing treasure Peter Jackson gave to us in 2005. It's better than the original in many ways, and I consider it the all time greatest remake of a classic film ever.