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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

King Kong... Yankee Doodle Kong



King Kong (2005): 8 out of 10: Peter Jackson's Kong is a long love letter to the original movie that surprisingly turns into that rarest of crowd pleasers. A movie that both men and their gals will like. Like Titanic, Kong has enough action to keep boys of all ages happy and a romance (complete with tragic ending) to get the ladies crying.

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And what a romance. Kong and Naomi Watts light up the screen with that most famous of dysfunctional cross species parings. And while you may be mumbling Stockholm Syndrome at the beginning (Not to mention whiplash, jeez Jackson turn down the rag doll physics on the Naomi Watts CGI effect. The way Kong flings her around she should end the film in a body cast) the romance seems to win even the cynics (yours truly) at the end.

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The rest of the cast is also top notch with Jack Black playing an Orson Wells style director so well it is almost freighting. Speaking of frightening many people wondered aloud how Jackson would handle the racist caricature (by today standards) of the island natives especially considering the whole disturbing white wizard versus the "dark forces" subtext of the LOTR films. Not to worry the embarrassing stereotypes of happy dancing black people are mocked in the Kong stage show putting that embarrassing Hollywood episode to rest.

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Instead the residents of Skull Island are some of the scariest people ever put on film. Pushing the PG-13 rating to the limit; they put the can back in cannibal. It’s nice to see natives bashing skulls, going into voodoo trances and kidnapping white woman they invoke the much happier stereotype of the true island savage. Hell they are scarier than the ape.

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Possible racial insensitivity aside Kong is far from perfect. While the special effects are overall top notch there are seams. For example when people run with the dinosaurs the limit of the green screen seems to show through (And could we get a moratorium on velociraptors in movies. They are really getting cliché and being a relatively new paleontological find really don't fit in a thirties era Kong movie. Yes I know that isn't logical but they kind of seem modern as if a character had a cell phone).

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The other real problem is length. This feels like the directors cut. With an easy 30 minutes of film that could (and probably should) end up on the cutting room floor. We spend so much time in various Kong free Broadway theaters one might mistake this for a Yankee Doodle Dandy remake. All that said great action scary islanders and tragic romance make King Kong a winner.

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