1/12/2006

King Yawn


Went to see King Kong yesterday with my friend Robert. I was going to pass, but he insisted, said he'd heard from reliable sources that it was worth it. I had heard the same from unreliable sources, which is why I was going to wait until it came out on DVD, so I could FF through the plot parts and just go straight to the CGI. Basically, the movie is a three-hour advertisement for the X-Box game (pic, above). Which made the whole thing pretty boring, since they don't give you a joystick at the ticket counter. Nothing worse than watching someone else play video games for three hours.

That's really what Peter Jackson is: a video game director. His Tolkien adaptations were insufferably tedious, too. Not just a little tedious, but through and through. Here he offers up various plots and subplots that go nowhere and mean nothing, but that we are forced to endure before we get to the great ape himself, presumably the reason we've come to the movie in the first place. Jackson has no sense of pacing, and absolutely no sense of restraint.

This has become the single biggest problem in the film biz: mediocre filmmakers (the list is as long and tedious as their films) with budgets bigger than most third-world countries' GDP, who don't know when to say when.

At least half of this film--and that is no exaggeration--should have ended up on the cutting room floor. The interminable video-game-like dinosaur stampede, for example. I mean, Christ, after fifteen minutes we get it. And the CGI effects during those scenes were crap. I mean, it looked like a video game.

Another thing about the movie was its over-all tone, which was unresolved. Jackson seemed to want it both ways. At times it was winkingly ironic, at times it struggled for pathos which inevitably ended in bathos. These latter instances were the most embarrassing.

There was an inexplicable, unnecessary subplot involving a castaway, Jimmy, and a certain Mr. Hayes (the gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous Evan Parke)--the dialogue was so contrived it went well beyond parody--but when Hayes is splattered, I came to believe that the director actually wanted us to take it seriously. Jimmy is given inordinate attention throughout the first third of the film (my ass was numb even before we got to see any action, by the way), he is not treated as expendable, and then--boom--he's dropped. We don't know if he lives or dies when one of the lifeboats capsizes. You know, don't waste our time on a character like that and expect us to engage with him, and then just drop him from the plot without any resolution.

As for the big-name players.

Naomi Watts: cut-rate Nicole Kidman clone without the botox. Would like to have seen more skin.

Adrian Broody (I meant to misspell it there, by the way): what can you say? As he showed in The Jacket, his best assets are his abs. Which, alas, we don't get to see here. Brody is not handsome, though he has classic Hollywood film star magnetism. What dampens this is his seeming obliviousness to how honking big his beak is.

Jack Black: who is this awful little man and what is he doing in the movies? With his big round face, and too-small eyes, nose and mouth? He has no presence. Can't act worth a damn. And here he exemplifies the director's dithering when it comes to the tone of the movie.

Now, Thomas Kretschmann, who played Captain Englehorn, had something. He might even be forgiven for his roles in Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, Blade II. In his defense, he was also in The Piano, with the cadaverous Broody, and Queen Margot.

What I will say is, this Kong was as expressive as they come. But still, I keep bumping up against this whole three-hour thing. However complex an ape might be, unless you're Dian Fossey, you don't want to spend three hours with him. (And that whole time he only learned one word in sign language!)

Jackson was so enamored of his Kong that every scene that set out to plumb the depths of the beast's soul was dragged out an eternity. I'm sorry, but as fascinating as Kong may be, he's not exactly a chinese box. He's jealous. OK, we get it. We don't need a ten minute close-up to figure it out. He's angry. Got it. Let's skip the twenty minute temper tantrum. A minute or two will suffice.

When he's in New York, and we see the whole Skull Island thing mirrored, he's rampaging through the streets, and Jackson apparently wants to make it absolutely clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is desperately seeking Naomi, so he has Kong pick up not one or two, but three screaming blondes off the street (one by one, of course, not all at once). We get it, already. You coulda shaved five minutes off the movie right there. I mean, I can't feel my legs!

It's really the same thing Spielberg does with his endless speechifying or Stone does by bashing us over the head repeatedly with the evidence. Modern movie audiences are a quick study. We understand you want us to admire how deep your Kong is. Point taken. Now can we move on with the plot, what plot there is, at least. I got a life to live, let's get on with it.

Restraint. Just a little restraint is all I ask. Kong showed it toward his little woman. Too bad Jackson couldn't show some toward his Kong.

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