SHORT TAKE: “King Kong” (***)

Posted by · 9:12 am · December 6th, 2005

King KongI don’t feel like writing passionately about “King Kong” in the slightest. What I can say with utmost conviction is that the film affords too much of EVERYTHING. The story is bloated, with subplots that could have been fleshed out more succinctly by capable hands (I contend that Peter Jackson is not the most gifted director when it comes to combining the dramatic and the spectacle, even if he is quite gifted at relaying them separately).

I will, however, say what no one will have the guts to say. 80% of the visual effects in the film are not worth the saliva they will induce. The heart and soul of the budget in this arena was obviously afforded to the Kong close-ups, which, by and large convey one hell of an intimately realized animated creature, but I will stand firm and offer that 12 years later, no filmmaker has flawlessly combined the elements of CGI the way Steven Spielberg’s team did with “Jurassic Park.” These are green screen environments that recall the “Star Wars” prequels – I’m sorry to say.

Much will be written about a dynamic duel between Kong and a trio of Tyranosaurs. And with good cause. The scene is pulse-racing, and along with the rest of the film’s action sequences, it is exhausting. But for this viewer, not necessarily in a good way. Not all of the time.

Jackson is without question the man to carry the visual spectacle storytelling torch from Spielberg. He applies some of the most brilliant, fascinating visual ideas here. He is a man who actually THINKS about what the visual effects will mean in a given sequence, what each beat represents in the overall structure of the scene, if not the film as a whole.

Now, that said, I am sure Mr. Jackson believes he has created some masterpiece of popcorn entertainment. I’m sure he believes that he plumbs depths beyond the mere satisfaction of a theme park ride. You can see him trying, desperately, to connect these characters not only to the audience in a relatable fashion, but to each other. But from the start, it is far too apparent that what is playing like Mozart in his twisted, brilliant brain is coming out more like muzak.

Elsewhere, of immediate note, Jack Black does not work when he needs to most, and he works best when a monkey could have done the job (pardon the pun). So much so that the final, eternity-echoing line of the script plays false and flat. How is that possible?

I’m sure I’ll catch a barrel-load of heat for holding “King Kong” up to any standard, but I’m sorry. The fact remains there are no excuses when we are 12 years removed from visual brilliance and when the tools necessary to craft dramatic brilliance are lying in wait. The best thing about this film is, without question, the dynamic between beauty and the beast. But the peripherals make it difficult to see that gem through the cringe.

The film is enjoyable (hence the rating). The film is a ride. But it doesn’t reach the bar it obviously aims for, and shooting so high makes for a lengthy fall.

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