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KING KONG   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Saturday, 14 January 2006
Show me the monkey!

Hot off the hype and the plaudits that the Lord Of the Rings trilogy garnered him, the next step for Austrailasian director peter Jackson was a remake of one of his favourite films of all time; the classic and seminally influential King Kong. So, wither I say, does the world need another King Kong remake? after the 1976 disaster, obviously we do, and whilst this is obviously and patently a far better film than that, this remake of Kong is a remake too far.

yes, yes, I know. i'm such a naysayer. But the truth is, this is a deeply flawed, self-indulgent, piece of blockbuster entertainment that whilst occasionally exhiliariating, leaves a deeply unplesant aftertaste.

At an astoundingly long 3 hours+, The main problem with this remake of Kong is quite simple: Peter Jackson simply doesn't know where to stop. It feels like a two hour film squeezed into three hours. Given that this is made by someone whose emotional attachment to the original is immense, whose perspective to the film is so close to the source material as to be myopic, finding themselves almost impossible to remove themselves from it. Intead we get an over bombardment of images and scenes slavishly in homage or copied from the original, with no criterion for their inclusion involved except to fulfil fanboy fantasies.

The maxim here seems to be that simply because we can do it, we must. The script and action scenes feels like they've been compiled from a list of fanboy dream desires of saying to themselves, 'I've been dreaming of seeing this for years, and nothing is impossible!' without any consideration of what would be best for the film. just one of the obvious examples is the remade spider-pit sequence,where spiders just appear out of nowhere and eat people BECAUSE THEY CAN. Like the six million dollar man, now we have the technology, and so we must put it back in. Its pointless and illogical, and just fanboy dreamwank. (Though I must confess, This bit had me watching behind my hands hiding in a jumper, because I am a total arachnophobe, by the way. Anything with more legs than corners scares me shitless, and these had a lot more legs and very few corners indeed).I mean, CGI man eating beasties with claws and teeth eating people alive...Ones that are scarier than pretty much anything else I've ever seen, so there's no way this should be a 12,because its scared the jesus out of me more than any film with 'alien','predator' ,zombie', or 'exorcist' in the title ever did...when you've got those who needs plot, character, subtext or intelligence?

You don't.

Sure, it looks pretty, but its at least 15 minutes too long, riddled by plotholes, filled with offensive racist stereotypes, brilliantly realistic CGI effects, but is ultimately a bitty, incoherent, over ambitious fan film with a $200 million budget. I mean, If the original King Kong hadn't been made in 1933, can you imagine how they would have pitched it now?

Director :'Its Jurassic Park...with Monkeys!' Film Board: 'oh god. Another idiot. Whats next? Die Hard, in a OFFICE building?'

Jurassic Park, with Monkeys. That sums this up totally.

Plotwise, it's the usual, as you'd expect from the original;Jack Black as a self-important prima donna movie director overwhelmed by a personal quest that will destory him, consumed by his greed and the self-indulgent belief that he's an auteur when he's just a lucky hack and Naomi Watts as an aspiring but broke actress swept up in his ambition to make a movie.But Jack Black comes across that old macguffin, a long lost map of a mysterious and secret island hidden in fog.And before his movie investors can shut him down, he's off with a illictly procured ship, a cast and crew, and a dream to fulfil. (There's No parallell between real life and the movie here, obivously; nor with the clunkingly obvious literary reference to Jospeh Conrad ). And I haven't even mentioned the films nominal lead, writer jack Driscoll as played by oscar-winner Adrien Brody, on hand to provide the script for the film within a film which hasn't been written yet, and some good old fashioned heroics. Well, not so much heroics as him being seemingly terminator-esque indestructible hero in galloping unarmed across an island defenceless and yet completely invincible,whereas 17 other people have already died trying to do the same trip, AND they had guns and weapons. He doesn't even have a graphite pencil to defend himself with.

For all its remaking of a classic, this film won't be remembered in the same way as the original. Because it's not original, not by any stretch of the imagination. Its becomes perfectly clear in king Kong that the difference between someone like jackson and Kubrick is obivous. Whereas Kubrick would take an existing work and add to it with layers and subtlety and subtext, jackson takes and existing work and just adds nothing but CGI monsters to it. If Kubrick was an interpreter of original material - understanding and adding to the original - jackson is merely a translator, taking it into a different form, not adding a single micron of value. Its clear that the genius in those acclaimed Lord of the Rings films was Tolkien, not Jackson, and courtesy of King Kong, it shows. It really does. I tell you, Peter Jackson is nothing without his Sauron, his firely unblinking eye of evil myteriously suspended hanging hundreds of the feet in midair in the same way that bricks don't. NOTHING!

Compared to the hype of the film and the expectations you might have from lord of the rings, you'd expect something pretty damn good. But this film is so, so much less than that. Sure, its entertaining, exciting and thrilling, but there again, so is a car crash.

And thats what we have he - a cinematic car crash of a director believing his own hype, being paid an unprecendented $20million to bring his long cherished fanboy project to life, and unable to let go from these fanboy desires. Indulgent, overlong, and occasionally tedious,. Kong is a lowpoint in the 'director as god' era we now seem to be inhabiting.

Hell, For all those five star reviews of this I read, im sure some of these critics will one day be able to look back and think' god, what were we thinking?' when they've got some critical distance from the films.

After a seemingly interminable first act (we don't see the monkey for the first hour), they arrive at the Island, and upset the natives, who kidnap leading lady Ann Darrow (Naomi watts) as a sacrifice to the monkey. Then Jack Black and his cohorts go into the island to rescue her, kidnap the monkey, and take him to new york for the inevitable CGI smackdown at the end. Add in mysteriously improbable dinosaurs, man eating spiders, check your brain out at the door because if you think too much all of this falls apart , and what you have is a deeply lacking film. Deeply lacking. And way too long.

Side characters are introduced and given subtelty and obvious signposting of their later and inevitable demise - see the innocent crewman reading 'Hearts of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad, similarly about one man consumed by his ambition to the detriment of all others around him! Chortle! Could we get any more obvious? These side characters instead pointlessly slow the pacing down to clinically dead, with an overabundance of unneccessary detail. Yet despite this time spent on superflous characterisation, there's vast swathes of plot left convieniently unexplained, and huge gaping holes in the plot's logic. Insultingly so.

And one of the other major problems that sits uneasily with the original Kong is how blatently it reflected the prejudices of the time in which it were made. And those same prejudices exist here, with no concern for how backward and racist it was then.

The island inhabitants are presented as nothing more than a pagan, stupid, race of dark skinned spearchuckers with a human sacrifice cult going on, and bits of bone through their lips and noses, shouting 'UG!' and killing people, before the white guys with their guns and cameras come along to conquer the uncivilised backward natives , in true 'white is right' fashion, much like they did in the 170''s in Africa before bundling them onto slave ships. The insulting imperial attitudes of treating all dark people as stupid who know nothing compared to the civilised white man is quite frankly, as insulting as i can imagine. The palefaces just turn up and these Natives seem to mysteriously and miraculously disappear all of a sudden, just at the point in the plot where you might think to yourselves these hardened dark savages with bits of teeth in their mouths and resembling nothing more than Nigger Orcs' (not a phrase I use lightly, but this film is so racist in its depiction of black people they might as well subtitle it 'Birth of a Nation') just seem to meekly hide because some white guys turned up with their boomsticks.

And As for the depiciton of the monkey himself, Hell, what we have here is an large animalistic male with black skin dominating and treating a tiny white blonde merely as his plaything for his own amusement, before discarding her like last weeks trash when she does so much as dare displease her.I tell you, its not so much king kong as a 200 million dollar remake of a trashy racist porn movie, complete with growling animal noises.

And talking of the monkey, let's see...yeah. The monkey. the monkey is way too big to fit in the boat, so how did they get him back to new york? Did they just stick some ropes over him and tow him, chucking bottles of chloroform onto his nose every few hours? This is what i mean by leaving vast swathes of plot convientiently unexplained. Answers on a postcard please to 'We didn't think this bit of the film through logically' c/o 'Lets just have a lazy fade-out and hope no one notices!'.And I tell you one other thing - for all that money on the screen, and I still couldn't tell you if the monkey has a penis. (This might have a lot to do however, with the fact that a Gorilla only has a two inch penis, but when you've thrown this much money on the screen, it's not a good sign that you're so bored that you start looking for such things)

King Kong is truly a fascinating film, if only to show how a film maker with too much power and no objective perspective on a film can really, trully, screw things up. Can you imagine how good it would have been if Ridley Scott had done it? i can only but dream. Like Pearl harbor, this film is a grand disaster, and should be shown to film students on how not to make a film.

Deeply disappointing, deeply flawed, way too overlong, insultingly racist, and devoid of meaning, subtext or soul, its an empty, vacous noisy explosion of CGI monsters and trash. Still, Good monsters though. And as long as it sells popcorn , who cares? Show Me the Money!

(Sorry, did I say money? I mean, Monkey. No really i did, honestly...)


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