Hey folks, Harry here in Austin - thinking more and more about New York these days. And not just because about 2000 folks I know will be in Times Square tonight. ARGH. But BNAT is testing me. It's a brutal race to the finish, and I must finish what must be finished. That's right, I'm gluing krepe hair to my nude body and acting KING KONG out live for a captive audience! Anyway, here's Sheldrake - and though he tries to avoid spoilers he did let one detail about a very important scene out in this gushing review. Here ya go...
Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh
Dec 4 2005
In Theaters on Dec 14th
I got an early look at KING KONG tonight and I am here to bring the water down from the mountain. Let me tell you now that that water is fresh and clear and good. Let me also get off a quick disclaimer. I am not a hardcore fan of the original King Kong, I just liked it—when I saw it, once, when I was about ten. It’s not a movie that got my juices flowing in such a way that I went back and watched it over and over again. It just didn’t hit me on that level. However, I have very fond personal memories of seeing King Kong in 1976, though I remember the movie was a bit of a letdown. So I went into KING KONG tonight a little reluctantly. Not sure I was I wanted to see it. Not sure I was the right guy to see it. So if you want a review from an apostate, here it is.
But I warn you in advance, it’s one long gush. I loved King Kong tonight. I loved it so much I want to see it again right now. It’s hard to describe the feeling. I feel so emotionally refreshed right now. Renewed. Great movies help you remember why it’s important to love someone. Why it’s important to have courage, even in the face of death. Why it’s important to fight for others, not just for yourself. In the PC age of infinite and unfiltered communication, of self-images and ideas of being a moral human that flicker in and out like the flame on a weak match, KING KONG remembers for you what our most basic relationships to each other are. What we really care about. What we feel when a man protects a woman. Freud says in Civilization and It’s Discontents that sublimation through art is great, but nothing beats taking a rock and smashing in the skull of your enemy. That’s the baseboard position we have as animals. KING KONG portrays for us the primitive strengths that decide victors and losers. How good it feels to crush your enemies and hear the lamentations of their women.
And above all, what beauty is, what it means to us, and how it rescues us from the deadly killing animal inside us.
And, in this version of KING KONG, how, when someone recognizes the beauty in you, it makes you beautiful—and makes you alive.
You know the legend of King Kong. Ten times as big as a man, so I’m not going to recount it for you here. And I don’t want to take a lot of time turning over this thing to admire the facets that make up the many sides of a very beautiful and precious jewel. The movie clocks in at 3 hours and 8 minutes and, frankly, it’s a little long. But somehow the size—feels right. This is a long retelling of a movie, conscious of it’s retelling. It’s as if we were called to the cultural campfire to hear an oft-told story, one we never grow tired of, told by our master story-teller, the son who has exceeded the father’s talents. And hearing it, we see rich new colors we hadn’t seen before; new frightening beasts appear in the cracks and corners of the story that the first teller had “left out;” romantic relationships are fleshed out and given substance.
So let me just mention a few things quickly that stood out and that you can watch out for, and then let me talk about the actors. And then I’m going to go to bed.
The opening montage sets the time and place. It’s a treat. Montages often are not a treat. This one is gorgeous, and you understand that it’s setting up a fence of reality around the story for you as it flows past you. The depictions of New York in the thirties are…heartbreakingly beautiful. The trolleys, the El’s, the time when there were the Empire State Building and the Chrysler and the Woolworth and a FEW other skyscrapers. You have to see it, relish it, treasure it. This is fine art, ladies and gentlemen, one for the vaults.
King Kong vs the Dinosaurs, defending his lady, is maybe the most ball busting kickass fight scene you’ve ever seen. And, on the other hand, Kong and Ann on the ice in Central Park—crap, I’m crying as I’m writing, thinking about it. No kidding. It’s just gentle and beautiful and…and…and you know what comes next for him. You really do have to appreciate the moments of beauty you get in life. You really do. It’s simple and sounds stupid, but if this year has taught me anything, it’s that black disaster may await you. You just don’t know. So get on the ice with that girl, and hold her in your hand, and forget for a moment that you’re a beast far from home in a city that will kill you. Or escape beauty altogether.
And finally, the Fall. The Fall is one of the most beautifully composed scenes I’ve ever seen. Just see it. Look at where the camera is. Look at how the planes come into the picture. And appreciate the grace and humanity and respect shown, for what the director, who has shown us everything, now declines to show us.
When you see it, pay attention to the fact that PJ cues you into the emotional content of the scene, and Kong’s role in it, according to the color of the sky. Blue skies are bad for Kong, red and yellow, or blue and ivory, are good, and in the black night he reigns supreme.
JACK BLACK is the ringleader in the story, the movie director bent on realizing his vision at the cost of everyone around him. I was a JB doubter about this role, and thought it was odd casting. But Jack does a great job, of portraying the impresario who gains the world and loses his soul. And ADRIEN BRODY turns in a good performance as the writer Jack Driscoll, Ann Darrow’s love interest.
KONG is played, of course, by ANDY SERKIS, who gave us GOLLUM. The Kong creation is a great one, and it’s far easier to read Kong’s face and actions than the other two versions. The big question: do you really see him as an actor in the movie? Oh yes and far more—he’s the hero of the movie, the character whose inner change defines the space the story lives in. Serkis also plays Lumpy the Cook, a nice “cameo” turn.
NAOMI WATTS. Ann Darrow’s initial dance in front of Kong, engaging the beast in play, is mesmerizing…no other word for it. Peter Jackson and the camera take turns worshiping this fair-haired beauty, and if you don’t walk out of the movie wanting to shield her from every danger then you’re already surrounded by dirt and one overhead lawn and you don’t know it. She’ll pull your heart out of you. Fantastic performance. And the blue screen work during the Dino stuff is incredible.
For the kids: the biggest ickiest bugs and LOTS OF THEM, more than you’ve ever seen in your life
If you’re ever caught in one of the movies ten-second dead spots, don’t leave on second nine because some damned amazing thing is just about to happen.
Lots of other thoughts about the movie…I’ll post the thoughts in talkback over the next week. I might stick the REALLY LONG ANALSIS in another review, or post it in talkback.
The movie is conscious not only of KING KONG but also, heavily, of APOCALYPSE NOW. They’re going up to the river to a place Kurtz saw only in his worst nightmares.
Kong is big because when life is surrounded by hate and savagery it has to get big to protect itself. But that protection doesn’t kill the living soul within, it only buries it. It’s always there waiting to be dug out and renewed, as it is in Kong.
So there it is. Go prepared for a long movie, a Kong long movie. but so many things happen at such an intense pace in the action, you may not notice.
I got to meet Peter, Jack, Naomi. Adrien, Andy, Phillipa and Fran afterwards. Just so you know. Jack was warm and friendly and wide open for anything. One of things that’s made him an easy in the industry is because, Jesus, you LIKE the guy like he was your best friend on meeting him. Huh. And he’s coming at YOU to talk!
December 4th, 2005