Hold the dew-drenched bluebells: a review of King Kong

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I treated myself to a lady night out and went to see the new King Kong. The small neighborhood theater was showing it on one of the smaller screens, and there were two women together in one side, a man by himself in the back, and an older couple behind me, to the left, and that was it.

I sat forward, close to the screen, with a small bag of popcorn and water I brought from home. The seats are actually pretty comfortable but it was cold, so I snuggled under my coat. The sound levels were just right and so was the screen size. As for the movie, I thought it was an excellent adaption of the 1933 classic. The movie was long–three hours–but I wasn’t tired until the very end when I creaked to my feet during the ending credits.

Note that what follows could be considered somewhat a spoiler, though reading wouldn’t lessen enjoyment of the movie.

I thought Peter Jackson did some things exceptionally well in the movie, and others could have used improvement. For instance, his Kong was magnificent–real and vibrant, and absolutely wonderful. The interaction between him and Ann Darrow (played by Naomi Watts) was easily the most charismatic of the movie, though I consider Adrian Brody to be one of the most sexy men I’ve seen in movies (outside of Johnny Depp, of course).

I liked Jackson’s portrayal of Darrow as a strong woman, capable of caring for herself, possessing of both spirit and a sense of humor. This didn’t lessen her need for help to escape, or protection from the giant beasties running around Skull Island. Unlike in the original, she didn’t need to be the helpless, screaming woman to make Kong more frightening. The impact of Kong’s size was more evident when he had her in his hand and was running with her through the jungle, her being slapped all about by trees and plants.

Darrow and Kong, excellent. At the same time, though, Jackson could have cut out 20 minutes of staring into Watts tear filled blue eyes. At three hours, we could have safely cut at least that much with no impact on the showing. One can only stare at wet, blue eyes for so long before it gets tedious. Jackson did the same thing with Lord of the Rings, too, except there we sat staring at Liv Tyler’s tear filled blue eyes. I can only guess that at some time in the past, Jackson must have heard about eyes like ‘dew drenched bluebells’, because he spends too much time in his movies having us stare at them.

I wasn’t particularly enamored with Jackson’s interpretation of the character of Carl Denham (played by Jack Black). He crossed a line at some point that made Denham less an obsessed director and more a sociopath. Still, the scene where Darrow crosses to safety, as she passes Denham and the others waiting to trap Kong and he pays her no attention–this after a voyage filled with fulcome compliments and seemingly sincere concern–is one of the most pivotal and best in the entire movie.

I did like Jackson’s version of the shipboard members, but where he excelled was with the island natives; his natives were superb. They were otherworldly and horribly frightening–about what one would expect of people forced to live on the edges of the land, because of the fear of what lay on the other side of the wall. The jagged, dangerous and fogged in approach to the island only helped to add to the effect, and I was mesmerized by the scenes. It was wondrous.

I was less impressed with the beasties in the island. The mix of Kong with the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park was, I thought, disappointing. No matter how much he tried, Jackson was not going to be able to get the dinosaurs to be as good as Jurassic. More importantly, though, this was a cheap gimmick the movie did not need. If we consider that King Kong is big because all of the island creatures were big, why would we need dinosaurs?

Big bugs, big bats, King Kong, and a T-Rex: which of these don’t fit?

However, Jackson made up for it by the scenes on the boat and back in New York. The scenes in New York were worth going to the movie just to see. In addition, there was enough action, and heights, to have me jerking about in my chair and probably providing entertainment for all of those seated behind me. I’m with AKMA in I almost hurt myself against my seat trying to pull back from the scenes on the skyscrapers.

The original King Kong is still, after all these years, an excellent movie; yes even with the claymation awkwardness. I was wary about another new Kong, after that abysmal version from the 1980’s. I was concerned that the story would be lost in the effects. However, Jackson’s King Kong did not disappoint. On the contrary: it made for a delightful lady night out. I hope, though, that in his next movie, Jackson holds the dew drenched bluebells

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