King Kong: Not a great film, but Jackson is an advertising genius.
- King Kong
I had high hopes for this film which is most likely why I'm so disappointed with it. The film probably deserves three stars but the CG in the film clearly wasn't finished in some areas (the Brachiosaurus stampede, some of the early shots of Kong) which, for a very visual film, is a let down. These visual failures clearly indicate strict time constraints which also leads me to believe that the editing process, even the filming process, was probably rushed through to completion. So damn the executives, because I think that if Jackson had time to work on cleaning up some of the dialogue, reshooting some of the scenes etc. then Jackson would have achieved his dream of reimagining the iconic masterpiece.
Now, before I get onto the meat of the review I want to elaborate on what I meant by the title's comment.
Jackson has been advertising this film since before he even knew he'd be able to do it. He mentioned it in practically every magazine spread/interview or TV Spot he's been in since the finish of The Return of the King Shoot. So the name's been floating about in the minds of millions who've since come to idolise the director for his treatment of the trilogy since 2002/2003.
Come 2004 we have the first real reports of the shoot for King Kong. Again repeating the old "Peter Jackson's been wanting to do it since he picked up a camera" stuff. Well, if he can do for something he has loved since childhood what he did for The Lord of the Rings, then it's got to be his Magnum Opus, right?
Yeah well, we think it will be. Especially when 2005 comes in. Magazines such as Empire and Total Film are fed "scoops". For each interview, each article, each feature they publish about King Kong, they get huge cooperation from the King Kong Krew (groan – Sorry I'm from the Mortal Kombat generation ;). So Empire gets staff on set, exclusive magazine cover designs, etc, etc. There have been countless examples of this. Jackson and Co. were greasing up the writers with exclusives and cooperation and it really pays off.
So even before the film is released, it's getting rave previews. "The set was amazing… the actors are great… oscars galore… Jackson's lost weight". My grim poetry aside, I was expecting something great. Jack Black – a great actor (except when he's the leading man – I don't know why he doesn't get great scripts – Shallow Hal and School of Rock? /puke). Adrian Brody has something special (I don't think I've been often moved as much as I was with his line in the Pianist – "I'm Cold."). Naomi Watts is one of my favourite contemporary actresses. She's beautiful and convincing. Combine this with THE Director of The Lord of the Rings, WETA (who are now rivalling Lucasfilm and Pixar in terms of special Effects) and you'll surely have a great film, right?
So the film comes out and we're hit with the usual advertising bonanza, but with the sleeker Jackson stamp (so an impressive website, some more magazine cover designs, courtesy Weta) along with another Jackson initiative in the pre-release form of his production diaries. Damn this man is good.
And what do the press do? They lap it up.
You've got the usual newspaper fluff:
The Sun: This is the best film ever released (since we last said that). 10/10
The News of the World: King Kong – BEST FILM EVER! – 10/10
The Daily Mail: Not quite sure what film I've reviewing but it was amazing. – 10/10
The Sunday Sport: You can see Naomi Watts's boobies in 21 Grams and Mulholland Drive – 5/5
The Guardian: Peter Jackson somehow manages to juxtapose the subtle Beauty and the Harsh Beast. Inspiring. 5/5
The Independent: Peter Jackson heralds a return to Directors who can make thoughtful movies. Those who focus on character development and not boobies and guns. Pure genius.
And then we have the Movie Magazines in the UK. These people are paid to review movies for a living yet they generally sit in awe and climb over each other to lavish praise on Jackson and his film. I can generally paraphrase what most of them come up with like this:
*"Jackson focuses on character development, which endlessly enriches the film."
*"The original film was only 2 hours long, but Jackson manages to hike it up to 12 hours with his great character development. Still, his fast pace makes it seem like it's only 20 minutes long! Please give us more!"
*"Jackson is a dude!"
*"Peter Jackson, please have my babies!"
ARGH! GET YOUR NOSES OUT OF HIS CHOCOLATE-FACTORY AND REVIEW THE DAMNED FILM YOU ASSMONKEYS!
So I think now's the time for my brief (:P) review:
What did Jackson get right?
*The natives of the island: The natives were genuinely scary and the scene was filled with tension. They were introduced appropriately, though they somehow disappeared after they went to rescue Naomi from Kong.
*Kong's "Fight Scenes": The Triple-Rex Takedown was a fantastic affair and wonderfully detailed. It was exciting and didn't stay its welcome.
*Kong: The Ape himself was often amazingly detailed. From the lighting on the hair to his behaviour to his scars to his emotions. Jackson managed to make his CG Beast outshine the other actors. Weta also did a fantastic job in keeping Kong to scale in nearly every occasion I could see. (Anyone remember King Kong being about a quarter of the size of he Empire State building in the original? ;))
*The "Ice-Skating": This, combined with the Empire State Building finale really made the movie. Kong somehow managed to elicit more sympathy from the audience than any of the other actors (excepting, of course, the ever-great Naomi Watts).
What did Jackson get wrong?
*He lost some of his artistic integrity. He should have fought for a delayed release in order to get things finished. By the looks of it, he didn't. And that reflects badly on him as a director (especially one who should have been able to wield some kind of power).
*Kong: The intial surprise of seeing Kong was not at the beauty of the character but wondering if it was stolen from the Rise of the Robots Snes Game. It has absolutely no texture and I could have probably done better with 3d Studio Max on my PC. No excuse for failing to make the initial impact of Kong as great as possible. To make the moment we see him a disappointment really ruins the 2 year build-up. Once again – no excuse.
*Character Development: I generally love character development. Recent examples, at least within TV series, are Prison Break. Every character is multi-dimensional. Unfortunately this is not so with King Kong. Most of the actors with lines seem to have 0 acting talent. And those who I know have talent, seem to have been robbed of it by the script.There's not point having character development if the actors are so bad that you want to shoot them. Isn't that right Billy Elliot?
*Andy Sirkis: The guy is a legend. He really makes the film with his realistic interpretation of Kong… But at the same time his chef character is just pure crap. The guy is a great voice actor. He's a great puppet-master (for lack of a better description). But for God's sake, don't give him any kind of a walk-on part, especially with lines. Robert Williams's Popeye Schtick was far superior.
That's about it from the top of my head. Watch the film… but don't get your expectations too high. And if you take your girlfriend, make sure you put her to sleep until about half-way through the movie… otherwise she'll dump you. And if you have a wife… she'll divorce you. And take half your possessions. And demand alimony. And then laugh at you when she's driving around in your car with her new boyfriend who's asking your kids to call him "daddy".
Bear that in mind before watching this film.
And Jackson – do better next time, please, please, please!