Monday, February 05, 2007

Monsters belong in B-movies!

I decided to set apart nineteen hours of my life to dedicate to the extended version of Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong. Because the film didn't seem nearly unwieldy enough in its "slim and trim" three-hour cut.

Yeah, it's cliché when talking about this version of Kong to discuss its length and pacing issues, but it was a serious problem with the film. My first viewing of the movie left me struggling to keep my eyes open, and that was at a noontime matinee show after a fairly good night of sleep. The first hour especially was hard on me--everything leading up to the Skull Island sequence--but the rest of it really did nothing for me the first time around either.

It's not to say that I was upset only by the length of the film. I've seen plenty of three-hour films that keep my attention for their entire span, even exciting me enough to watch them again. Jackson pulled it off with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, and another example would be Spielberg's Schindler's List. List is a perfect example, in fact. A whole lot less happens in that film, and yet every viewing draws my rapt attention. So if it's not just me and my MTV-generation brain, there must be some inherent flaw with Kong, probably dealing with the direction or the script (both of which fall squarely on Peter Jackson's now-tiny shoulders).

The second viewing was kinder to me than the first, which is strange because it seems to have twenty minutes of tacked-on material added on (mostly during the Skull Island portion). The main additions are two action sequences, and both are well-made. The first is, unfortunately, a stumbling block despite its quality. A triceratops attacks and gores various members of the expedition. The problem is, the scene is inserted before the characters (and the audience) are aware of the dinosaur presence on Skull Island, rendering Carl Denham (Jack Black)'s (and the audience's) later sense of awe moot. The second sequence--an attack by a water creature--is more deftly executed, and it even fleshes out some of the relationships between the shipmates.

The real showstopper sequence of the film, and the thing that makes the whole thing worth it, is the giant ape's battle with one two OH SHIT THREE T-REXES SURPRISE!!! Kong kicks ass and takes names, obviously, and it turns out to be one of the most satisfying action sequences ever put on film. It's so well-choreographed and well-done that you can almost disregard the fact that Naomi Watts' Anne Darrow would have been shaken to death like a trailer park baby ten times over. The crowning achievements of the scenes are the three kill-shots from the King, including the death of one Tyrannosaurus Rex whose head is crushed like a soda can.

The beasts of the film are marvelous, ranging from your run-of-the-mill, poorly-computer-animated dinosaurs to your Legend-of-Zelda Like Likes! The extended scenes offer a fair number of new ones, which should make you happy.

The film didn't drag as much for me the second time around, and I attribute that to the fact that I was dreading a second watching. It's not a poor film, and there are plenty of rousing moments that should give you goats. The acting is adequate from all of the heavies (and even Jack Black, who turns in a surprisingly convincing performance), and Kong is a fairly realistic creation by WETA Digital. The dinosaur animation seems to have taken a step back from the Jurassic Park days, but that's a minor complaint. I don't know if I'd recommend catching this film or not, but I'd recommend making it a rental if you do. Once will probably be enough.

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