My husband and I received the DVD King Kong as a gift a couple of months ago, but hadn’t had the time to watch it. Finally, we set aside three hours one night after the kids had gone to bed and settled in for the viewing. We were cautiously excited about it because the director, Peter Jackson, is very popular in our house. We loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We hoped to love this movie, too, but we wondered, how can one say anything original the fourth time out of the gate about a big ape who falls in love with a blonde?
Sadly, we discovered that one cannot, even if that one is Mr. Jackson.
While the filmmaker did try to bring a new angle to this tale of “girl meets ape” that eschewed the unsavory sexual undertones of previous versions, going instead for a “owner/pet” relationship between the two (with the girl being the pet), unfortunately that angle was too thin to be stretched over three hours of film. Heroine Ann Darrow, as played by Naomi Watts, was as lovely and emotive an ingénue as any who have played the part, but after watching scene after scene of her trading soulful, silent gazes with Andy Serkis’ Kong, enough was enough.
High adventure is something we expect of a Peter Jackson film, as well, and he made a heroic attempt to deliver. However, the middle hour of the movie appeared to be one long bite-fest, with prehistoric dinosaurs attacking each other, the cast members, and Kong non-stop. After the umpteenth time of Ms. Watts falling into the clutches of yet another beastie and having to be rescued by Kong, it got to the point where we just didn’t care anymore. Like the monk in the Monty Python classic Search for the Holy Grail, we were persuaded to “skip a bit, brother,” and fast forwarded through most of those scenes. When, at the end, Jack Black’s character, movie producer Carl Denham, comments that seventeen shipmates had been killed in the rescue of the heroine, my husband and I were amazed. Really? Only seventeen? So many were dropped into yawning caverns, squashed, or consumed, we thought that surely there had been many more than that.
Finally, the willing suspension of disbelief is a critical element of bringing the audience along for the ride in a fantasy horror film of this ilk. If one can get past the “Jurassic Park meets Godzilla” feel of the film, one still has to believe that after hours of man--er--ape-handling by Kong, the heroine still looked perfect (not a scratch on her). As much as the heroine got whipped around in this film, she would have needed a neck brace, casts, and crutches after she was freed.
We wished this film had lived up to the reputation of the director. At a minimum, the movie could have been seriously edited by at least an hour. A better choice would have been to let sleeping apes lie, and not to have made this remake at all.
Better luck next time, Mr. Jackson.