Saturday, January 20, 2007

King Kong (2005)

2005, US/New Zealand, directed by Peter Jackson

After the remarkable The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong is an inevitable comedown for Peter Jackson, not least because it doesn't have the sense that he was the first filmmaker to give true life to a particular story. Here he's competing, throughout, with the 1933 original. Although he has far more money at his disposal, and he almost doubles the running time, Jackson, for all his filmmaking skill, can't match the consuming weirdness of the original, while the appearance, in the interim, of Jurassic Park robs the 'lost world' sequences of much of their magic; throughout the film, there's an overwhelming sense that we've been here before (sometimes with less polish, to be sure, though the relatively creaky 1933 special effects are part of the original's appeal for modern viewers).

Despite all of that weight, the new King Kong remains entertaining: there's a tremendous energy to much of the narrative, and Jackson is exceptionally skilled at juggling the parallel storylines on Skull Island. That said, the editing shears could have been used far more liberally in some of the over-extended set-pieces; there's a sequence that involves dinosaurs, a giant ape, an imperilled actress and some very strong vines that is but one repetitious example (that the critics, for the most part, warmly welcomed King Kong and dismissed Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, with its clever action set-pieces, seems to me a strange paradox). On the human side, Jackson does a decent job of capturing Carl Denham's flaws and his unfailing ability to destroy all he loves, whereas he's less capable of updating the gloriously strange ape-woman relationship bequeathed him by the original.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States