A Larger Than Life Attack of Rampant Nostalgia, and the Perils of Finally Getting Your Dream Project.
If I had more money than I could ever spend, I would personally bankroll the long delayed Watchmen movie. For those of you who don't read comics, The Watchmen was the seminal work of comics fiction during the Eighties. It was a fabulous, mind blowing read and something that was permanently tattooed into the grey matter of my post adolescent brain. If I had the cash, I would make it happen, If for no other reason than I think it should. So, I completely understand why Peter Jackson chose to remake King Kong. Every interview I've seen of him, he drips with nostalgic memories of the first time he went to see King Kong in the theater. He now has enough money and Hollywood political clout to do pretty much whatever he wants, so, yeah... Why not remake that one movie you always wanted to see updated with the new special effects, and modern day actors.
See, that's the thing. Lord of the Rings was something fresh and new to the big screen. Barring several miserable attempts to bring it to screen in animated form, J.R. Tolkien's life's work has defied Hollywood. Peter Jackson pulled off a hat-trick by giving us three wonderful films that not only did justice to the written work, but also made enough money to make their bankrollers happy. Unfortunately, for his follow up, he fell prey to that same overwhelming compulsion that keeps the action figure market well supplied with new victi...I mean repeat customers, nostalgia. I'm not saying that he shouldn't have, I'm just saying, "What a wasted opportunity." The man could have made any movie he wanted. I can think of a lot of stories that have been begging to come to the big screen for decades. He could have done Alfred Bester's, The Demolished Man, or The Stars My Destination. He could have made The Watchmen a reality, or dragged Will Eisner's The Spirit out of development hell.
Anything but a film that's already been remade once... badly I might add.
Well, all griping aside (yeah right) King Kong isn't too bad. The story is still pretty much, "Goofy movie director wannabe finds giant ape, with help from beautiful vapid blonde chick, he drags ape back to New York City, mayhem ensues." (Hmmm... not a bad pitch. Even came in under 25 words). The special effects are of course, the real reason to go to this film, unless of course you just really wanted to see Jack Black trying desperately to stretch his somewhat limited acting muscles.The special effects that make Kong work as a character are unprecedented. He comes off as a proud, tender, almost regal animal that shows way more humanity than any of the human stars. Adrien Brody isn't given much more to do than sleepwalk through the roll of Jack Driscoll, which he does admirably, and Naomi Watts is no Fay Wray, but she does okay. She's missing that vulnerable charm that Ms. Wray had in spades. There's a few scenes on Monster Island that definitely make this movie worth the price of admission (or worth a rent now,) but I was definitely disappointed by the whole package.
As with most Peter Jackson films, the new DVD release should be well worth buying for the extras, though I'll probably wait until around Thanksgiving to get the inevitable 7 disc box set. If you have the chance to go see this at the theater, it's worth a look, just don't go into it expecting anything more than a little over three hours worth of intense eye candy. Keep in mind the rule that all movies are better with monkeys, and try not to think about what could have been.