Wednesday, April 12, 2006

ANALYSIS: KING KONG, Part 2

Yesterday, Kathleen and Therese dished--and disagreed--about the effectiveness of Peter Jackson's remade classic, King Kong. Here's part two of their roaring debate.

Therese: What did you think about the authenticity aspect of the film?

Kathleen: One thing PJ and co. do really well is set a mood. The music, the Depression-era culture, the rust-bucket boat...it was spot on. Show-biz
America was just a fig-leaf over immense suffering, which fed everyone's desperation. So returning to Jack Black's character, I bought his desperation. It took me a few minutes to get my head away from Jack Black's "Jack Blackness" but after a while, he became Denham to me. Everyone was desperate in this story: Denham, Ann, the ship's captain and crew, the cannibals (were they cannibals?), Kong, and finally, America itself, a country that would fetishize a giant gorilla just to escape their troubles for a few hours. What did you think?

TW: Great points and I totally agree. I also appreciated the time the production team took in world building¬both the Skull Island and the NYC set, which was amazing in its detail to the buildings and skyline of the time (they even researched the colors certain store signs would’ve had back in that era and did their best to replicate everything exactly). PJ himself has said, “If you don’t believe in the world the movie takes place in, you’re not going to believe in the film.” I personally think he gets an A+ for authenticity.

I also have to once again call attention to Kong’s personality. Philippa Boyens apparently studied the Hunchback of Notre Dame character to build into Kong the secluded madness he would've had on Skull Island. I also loved how they played his character once in NYC, not as a destructive monster, but as an animal afraid and cornered and desperately needing something (Ann). I think tying Kong’s emotions into something we could relate to and sympathize with was story gold--definitely the right move. What did you think of the updated take on Ann, her contemporary mindset?

KB: I liked Naomi Watt's take on Ann. She played her as a survivor who is devoted to the people she loves (the little scene in Act 1 where she has to say goodbye to one of her vaudeville castmates was a good way into that character trait). So I got the arc where she's at first afraid of Kong, then pities him, then comes to love him. But I also thought PJ overplayed his hand. I counted five scenes of Naomi's tear-streaked face as she sat in Kong's palm gazing up at him--two would have served. I groaned in the scene where she emerged from the mist to "save" Kong from his murderous rampage in NYC. It was hard (for me) not to cringe at Kong frolicking in Central Park. But I did tear up a little when they sat on top of the Empire State Building and watched the sunset together...that was beautiful. What did you think of the ending?

TW: I know what you mean about “Central Park Skatetime for Kongy and Ann” being a mite over the top, though I’m sure PJ wanted to show the idyllic stolen moment before all was lost. You’re right: the sunset scene was a great touch, reestablishing Kong and Ann’s connection to each other on that base level, and reminding us of their journey, since they shared a similar moment on Skull Island. I was sniffling at the ending, too, which surprised me; it’s not like I didn’t know Kong's fate. Here’s something I wasn’t a great fan of (yes, there was something!): how Jack Driscoll climbed the tower after Ann in the end. Did it play that way in the original? If so, I understand why I forgot about it!

KB: By then I was so numb....the rampage, the planes, the car crashes--Jack Driscoll's frantic quest to save Ann hardly registered (here's a thought: what if Ann slid down the building with Kong? THAT would have been a tear-jerker!). But what did have me screaming at the screen was when Carl Denham stands over Kong's smoking body and intones "T'was beauty killed the Beast." No, it was Denham's greed and lust for fame that killed him. Arrgh!

TW: Oh, man, but PJ had to include that line! Not including that line would’ve been like not including, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” if anyone were dippy enough to remake Gone with the Wind; the words are too entrenched in public culture to leave out. So what do you think: Has Kong killed your love of and faith in our fearless Peter Jackson?

KB: No way! Although I do think he indulged himself on this one, Kong has been butchered in the hands of lesser filmmakers, so PJ did about the best that could be done with a story like this. I can't wait to see what he does with Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. He and his team are gifted storytellers, and I'll eagerly watch whatever they come up with.

TW: Same here; he, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens won my undying loyalty with Lord of the Rings.

How many boxes do we give this movie on a scale of 1-5?
Therese: ####1/2
Kathleen: ###

Next week, Kathleen and Therese will post segments of their published article, Lessons from Lord of the Rings!

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