Thursday, December 29, 2005

King Kong (2005)

Let's start with the most basic fact: the Kong vs. 3 T-Rexes battle was the GREATEST GIANT MONSTER BATTLE EVER! Despite the fact that I think Jackson overplayed his hand a bit with the sequence in the vines, which felt like something out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I still have to give him points for having the audacity to even try it.

I like the way Jackson deals with Carl Denham. Rather than try to update the character, he updates the perspective. The original Kong feels like it's told from Denham's point of view (which, considering how closely Denham was modeled on Merian Cooper, is probably true). The funniest moment in Kong '33 (aside from the Deadly Man-Eating Brontosaurus) is in the final scene, when Denham breaks through the crowd to get to Kong's body. He announces himself, and a woman in the crowd stage-whispers "Denham! He's the man that captured the beast!" Then the cop starts in with the "Well, the airplanes got him" bit. In real life, that woman would probably have said "Denham! He's the fucker responsible for this mess," followed by the cop saying "I hope you like cleaning up dead monkey." But Cooper was of a now-dead breed, and couldn't possibly imagine that anyone would view the act of capturing a gorilla and bringing it back to civilization as anything but heroic.

In Jackson's version, we see this character through the eyes of the 21st century, as a dishonest and self-serving manipulator. There's one line taken directly from Kong '33, right after Kong has been gassed and captured, where Denham yells "We'll be millionaires, boys! I'll share it with all of you!" In the original, it's a triumphant note to end a thrilling action scene. In Jackson's version, it's a hollow appeal to a bunch of men standing around feeling ashamed of what they've just done, insignifigant in the wake of the lives lost for Denham's crazy adventure. And while we don't really believe Denham '33's promise to share it with the crew, we think maybe he at least believes it while he says it. But by this time we've already heard the same hollow promise twice from Denham '05, and understand fully that it's a lie.

In his Fighteners review, Mr. Beaks mentioned that it was fortunate that Jackson was not able to make Kong back in the late 90's, because he would not have made Lord of the Rings. I say it was fortunate because the script he had written at the time was fucking retarded (it's online here). Still, it's a fun read. I like the feeling of dread in the journey by ship to skull island (it feels like it's ripped off from The Call of Cthulu), and it would have started with a WWI dogfight scene that I now realize was taken straight out of Merian Cooper's life. When Jackson started working on Kong after LotR, I was hoping he'd reunite with Kate Winslett to play the lead, and was a little disapointed that he went with Naomi Watts. Watts does a good job, but I do kinda wish it had been Winslett. I just think she's a more interesting screen presence. And hotter.


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