Tuesday, April 11, 2006

ANALYSIS: KING KONG

Therese and Kathleen are both nerds extraordinaire when it comes to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. In fact, they crafted an article (along with co-nerd, Elena Greene) about writerly lessons that can be derived from the film, and the article was published last November in the romance association’s craft magazine, the RWR. So when we heard Peter Jackson and company were tackling King Kong together, we were excited, but—surprise!—we came away with very different feelings about this remade classic.

Therese: I’m a huge Peter Jackson fan after his masterful work on Lord of the Rings, so I went to the theatre just to see him shine again with his latest furry baby, King Kong. On the whole, Kong entertained me; it was trademark PJ, with great world building and authentic characterization. What did you think?

Kathleen: I was really looking forward to Jackson's followup effort after his kick-butt rendering of LOTR. I was so disappointed. I thought it suffered from massive bloat that dragged down the narrative. He could have lost at least an hour. I also got the impression that he was so hung up on this 'lost world' island he created that he lost sight of the storyline.

TW: I think the story had a character-driven engine, playing homage to each character’s journey and arc; this choice probably made for a slower ride than if PJ had chosen a plot-driven engine. (I can’t remember who it was now, but one of the actors or maybe PJ himself called this “a relationship movie,” and I agree.) The New York City sequence also essentially played the role of a looong prologue, IMO. Again, this was necessary to establish characterization, but it probably slowed down the story for some. Where do you think he should’ve snipped, Kath?

KB: I actually liked the NYC sequence. I was extremely caught up in Ann Darrow's story, and I think he set up the conflicts well there. The Skull Island/Act 2 is where he lost me. I blogged about suspense pockets last week, and every scene in Skull Island seemed like an over-extended suspense pocket. PJ's a master at milking scenes for tension, but this time I felt that he was throwing too many layers of danger. The spooky natives. The jinormous bugs. The vicious dinosaurs. And then Kong itself. I kept thinking: "when are we moving this story forward? I'm tired of looking at a jungle." I also got bored with Kong. It was AMAZING how they were able to map human emotions onto the creature...I really felt like he was another character. But after the seventh time of him looking pensive, I was ready to move on. What about you? How did you respond to the Skull Island sequence?

TW: The suspense pockets worked for me, for the most part. I loved that the natives were creepy and that there were abundant conflict moments. I think PJ had to show how tough Skull Island was in order to demonstrate what Kong’s life had been like, how lonely and scarred he was, and how strong he’d had to be. It’s an effective counterpoint, IMO, to post-Ann Kong, who accepts her companionship and becomes vulnerable to her--all necessary for act 3. That said, I do think PJ could’ve done without that weird brain-sucking-monster thing and probably some of the jungle-chase sequences. Like you, I was blown away with Kong’s expressions and his unique personality. What did you think about the characterizations overall?

KB: LOL, the brain-suckers! I wonder if PJ just told his Weta crew "give me the grossest thing you can come up with!" I agree about Kong, he was fully fleshed out, not just a "monster." I felt Jackson did a good job showing us how lonely he was which left him ripe to fall for Ann. The other character relationship I enjoyed was among the ship's crew. Jackson was careful to give each of them a distinct personality and their own goals. But I was disappointed after spending so much time on their development, they were absent in Act 3. Maybe this was one of the casulties of editing. What did you think about the Carl Denham antagonist character played by Jack Black? Did you think it worked?

TW: I think Denham’s lust for his filmmaking, and his bad decision-making, drove the external plot. I thought Jack Black made a great Denham! There was a delicious skeeziness about him, wasn’t there? I also loved Naomi Watts as Ann, Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll and, of course, Andy Serkis as the expression behind Kong. What are your thoughts on Denham, and what did you think about the authenticity aspect of the film?

Will Kathleen continue to go ape on this movie? Check back tomorrow for part two of our analysis of KING KONG!

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