Tuesday, December 20, 2005

King Kong

The thing that first strikes you in the opening minutes of King Kong is Peter Jackson's versatility. The montage of scenes depicting 1930s America in the throes of the Great Depression is done with an artistic flair and an eye for continuity. It almost smacks of one of those quiet arthouse movies, at least until we come to Naomi Watts in drag.

Yes, she looks fairly like Charlie Chaplin and seems in her element. Then she gets fired. Jackson's King Kong adaptation is an infusion of disparate styles that do justice to all aspects of the movie. And yet, like sullen echoes on a pond, we can make out Jackson's personal touch. That unique blend of quiet humour that more often than not is everything to the progression of the movie. That masterful depiction of unendurable horror and barbarism. The stark reality of predicament and unutterable futility of action that is so evident in his previous works.

Naomi Watts lends a desperate, charming energy to her Damsel-in-distress character of Ann Darrow, a comedian-actress found lacking in the luck department. The horror of the possibility that she could end up in a burlesque drives her straight into the waiting, megalomanical arms of the monomanical movie director Carl Denham, played by Jack Black with uncharacteristic dignity and seriousness. Denham, of course, stakes everything he has left on his latest pet project, a pseudo-documentarian expedition to hitherto unexplored Skull Island, accompanied by playwright and Darrow love interest Jack Driscoll, played with nervous reticence by the pianist, Adrien Brody. The rest is history. Movie history.

King Kong is best described as a fanboy's dream come true. Jackson is the richest fanboy on earth and he means to spend it wisely and cash in on the returns. What can I say? He relies on his previous success and the reputation that comes with it and spins a miasma for the studios. They snap it up. Luckily Rings wasn't a fluke, because he delivers the goods, this time in true mindless blockbuster perfection. Brontosauruses, giant bats, leeches, gorillas, T-rexes, you name it, there isn't a pause in the animalistic action in the legacy of all those old man vs. animal flicks like Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park 2 and Jurassic Park 3 (et al.)

What sets King Kong apart is its emotional core. Bonds and love and loss and suffering; they come in equal portions with the action. Darrow and King Kong develop a strange, unfathomable relationship; the heart of the beast softens for a beauty. "It was beauty that killed the beast." Driscoll and Darrow, couple in a young blossoming love that should have had more screen time; Kong vs. Driscoll in the subject of Darrow's affections, what couldn't be more disturbing? Horror and hope, civilization vs degeneration, love vs betrayal. The webs too complex for a simple paragraph to cover.

No need to talk about Jackson's direction. Or cinematography. They're good.

The chief flaw of this film is its pacing; I would have preferred less action by far; which would shorten the movie into a more manageable 2.5 hours. Of course, the final scene, that classic sequence done in modern CGI polish, is worth the long 3 hour wait.

Watch it. Anything Jackson makes post-LOTR is probably worth watching, no matter the subject.

No comments: