Thursday, December 29, 2005

King Long

Since I have a week off from work, I found time today to go see "King Kong." It's no Chronicles of Narnia, that's for sure.

First of all, I should say up front that I'm a huge fan of the original 1933 film version. I don't know how many times I've seen it, but it's safe to say that at least one of my brothers has seen it even more often than I. Often enough to have memorized the native chief's speech atop the wall prior to Kong's arrival. But, like a Peter Jackson movie, I digress.

This newest King Kong is at least 45 minutes too long. If Jackson had just eased off on the lingering, dewy-eyed closeups of Naomi Watts (Ann Darrow), he could have saved 20 minutes right there. The dinosaur stampede--you read that right--was several frames too incredible. The spider pit scene was an "Aliens" wannabe, and it was hard to keep track of which ghastly fate was befalling whom in the many murder-and-mayhem sequences on Skull Island.

As for the climactic scene atop the Empire State Building, again five minutes too long, I was enjoying the show quite well until Ann Darrow started climbing the iron ladders--in high heels and evening gown, no less--to reach Kong as he was under gunfire attack from the airplanes. Whoa, sweetheart! Excuse me! Isn't the old movie "dumb blonde" now considered to be sexist stereotyping? I guess not when you're recreating the 1930's.

And to give credit where it is due, the digitally recreated Manhattan of 1933 was a wondrous sight to behold. Also on the plus side, King Kong has quite a bit of personality in this modern rendering of his tale. But the whole "love story" angle with Ann Darrow didn't quite work for me. I thought the original version, portraying Kong's unrequited love for Ann, was more moving and effective. In 1933's King Kong, Fay Wray screamed blue murder with blood-chilling realism at the slightest sign of the smitten Kong, which to me made a whole lot more sense.

At least this latest Kong had the satisfaction of knowing that his cherished Ann loved him, too. As Kong bids Ann his (very lengthy) farewell and plunges from the building's pinnacle, their mutual affection threw a pinch of sweet into the bitter ending.

But I still have two questions for director Peter Jackson.

First: Why did we need so many long, plot-stopping closeups of Ann Darrow?

Second: What were you thinking with that ice skating scene?