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King Kong

What’s big, hairy, violent, dark and very very wild? Yes, correct, Peter Jackson, director of this above-average movie.

Remakes, eh? After the total disaster of the predictably disappointing

ShakespeaRewritten series on tv (95% of the point of Shakespeare is the language, only 5% the plot), and the completely different story given to The Italian Job, I was hesitant upon entering the cinema for this one. How can you compete with Fay Wray and the Empire State Building?, I thought.

The new KK is long, taking plenty of time to get to the point, building up the context for those who are about to become suddenly dead extras, and establishing the love story between the gorgeous actress and the plain playwright. It is difficult to take Jack Black seriously, as he exhibits the same eyebrow moves as he uses in School of Rock, and I kept expecting him to break into progressive guitar licks at any moment. Strange how an actor can be so strongly associated with a character after just 90 minutes. Not type-casting, surely, but perhaps only-casting. Anyway, the sea journey is exciting, but just a plot device to get us to the mysterious Skull Island.

I grow a little weary of these predictable names for locations: Mount Doom; Pleasantville; Death Star; Skull Island. Okay, when it’s Tolkein, you have to acknowledge the author and the time frame in which he wrote. But with a 2005 remake of a 1930’s movie (we have all forgotten the more recent attempt, which is extremely wise of us) there is little need to maintain the 1930’s name for the location. Anyway.

The natives are not friendly, and their attitude towards white, golden-haired females is less than enlightened. But I felt uncomfortable with the completely one dimensional treatment of the locals; black as your hat; dumb; they only ever say ‘Kong’ or unintelligible chatter as they try to kill everyone and sacrifice the girl. Okay, so they are in fear of the creatures that live beyond the wall, but Pink Floyd managed to do that with style and lyricism. But probably best not to use the word ‘racist’.

Mulholland Drive is a difficult and complex movie with several plots, multi-dimensional characters and beautiful actresses, one of whom is Naomi Watts, a ravishing blonde with a perfect mouth, selected for the love interest for Kong. Suddenly the black and white images of Miss Wray faded from view as the lovely face of Naomi filled the giant screen. No problem there, then.

So, onto the CGI. Breathtakingly impressive computer-generated gorilla action follows for some time. Miss Watts hasn’t the lung capacity of Miss Wray, and frankly, her screaming is feeble and short-lived. But that’s probably to the benefit of the listener, and there is great skill directorially and from the actress as she shows her changing attitude towards the wild beast. First there is fear, naturally, which then is forced to mellow into a patronising attempt to entertain or calm him; then she starts to connect with him; eventually they seem to communicate with each other; finally there is fondness. Her pity for his solitude and mistreatment is repayed by his protection of her and, ultimately, his self-destruction.

Is he the dumb animal seduced by beauty, as Black says at the close of the piece? Or is he deliberately ending it all when he understands she can never be his, on account of mankind’s insatiable desire to capture, to own, to entertain, to commercialise, to thrill (and the slight complication of the differences in scale)?

Maybe I am also implicated by being in the cinema audience, just as much as the New York swanks in their tuxedos in the theatre where Kong is exhibited. It’s like they tried to do with films such as Sliver or Irreversible – accusing the audience of joining in, when it was by means of appealing to our baser instincts that inticed us to be there in the first place. We went to the cinema because we’re like that, so don’t think yourself all that clever for reaching this conclusion, Jackson… Oh, I’d better stop there.

Best moments for me were the fights with the other creatures; dinosaurs of a varied type, winged creatures, multi-limbed creepycrawlies, hideous sucking things and water-dwelling creatures of mystery. I think it’s because I don’t know how they are supposed to move that I believe in their movement; the way the brontosaurs fell from the cliff was excellent, while the Precious moves of Kong himself were commonplace (probably correct, but less exciting somehow).

The end of the movie reflects the original very well, and is a tad predictable on that account.

It’s long but then Peter Jackson is no respecter of buttock-numbness (cf the pointless last 20 minutes of LotR:RotK; check my rant against cheese here). However, the thrills and emotion are powerful incentives to keep viewing. Apparently, the film was first conceived ten years ago; but these days the CGI options are so much more effective, smooth and believable. And there’s a genuinely worthwhile story to tell.

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