Anyway, we made it to the 5 p.m. matinee of King Kong yesterday (SPOILERS AHEAD), despite the horrid weather. And I mostly loved it, despite the somewhat horrid audience. I so rarely go to movies at the big-ass cineplexes these days, I forget what a nightmare the audiences can be. I'm beginning to suspect that Americans are no longer civilized enough for movie theatres. But...the movie. No, it wasn't perfection. It wasn't even the near perfection that Jackson acheived with The Lord of the Rings. But it was quite good, and it had enough absolutely superb moments to mostly make up for the rough spots.
What I didn't like: The film's greatest weakness is undoubtedly the first hour or so of the film, the long first third in New York City and then most of the stuff aboard the Venture. I appreciate that Jackson wanted to provide the characters with a little more depth and background than they had in the original film, but it goes on much too long. I don't see the point in having divided the character of Jack Driscoll in two, especially when one half amounted to nothing but lamentable comic relief (the insufferable Kyle Chandler as Bruce Baxter, the film's least necessary character). And I'm not sure that Jack Black was up to the role of Carl Denham. Almost, but maybe not all the way. I certainly could have done without the absurd ice-skating amongst the Xmas trees schmaltz near the end, and there were times when Naomi Watts' raport with Kong was just a little too cute and a little too much. While we're at it, I freely admit that I really don't like Naomi Watts and didn't feel she was right for Ann Darrow. I'm not sure why Jackson wanted to try to replace Fay Wray's waifish, almost Pre-Raphaelite grace with Watts' big-eyed charm, but there you go. I wasn't making the film. I also felt that the film's iconic last line falls disasterously flat, most likely because it was prefaced by a very different film than the one that it was originally written for.
What I did like: As soon as the Venture entered the fog banks surrounding Skull Island, it felt to me as though the film found itself. Suddenly Jackson was in his element again. There was very little I didn't think was entirely wonderful about the Skull Island scenes. The retro-dinosaurs were terrific and left me wanting more. Kong was rendered and acted brilliantly, right down to that poorly mended and somewhat askew broken jaw. The islanders were genuinely terrifying, and I thought that Jackson's decision to use mostly white actors in body make-up nicely avoided the racism of the first film and created a tribe of people who looked disturbingly alien. I was overjoyed at the scene in the ravine (filmed but excised from the original). In short, I think I could have watched Skull island forever. It wasn't quite as marvelous as Willis H. O'Brien's murky, moody B&W landscapes, but it had a fearfulness and beauty all it's own. I very much appreciated that we saw much more in the way of ruins — I could believe that there really had once been a great, unknown civilization on the island. The last of the Skull Island scenes, as Capt. Englehorn and Denham attempt to chloroform Kong into submission and Ann begs them to stop — that may have been the very finest scene in the film. It was far more poignant that the climax atop the Empire State. I thought the addition of the Evan Parke character, Hayes, worked nicely, as did (most of the time) Colin Hanks' role (Jimmy). The Heart of Darkness sub/metatext worked much better than I would have thought. Peter Jackson's vision of Depression-Era NYC was breathtaking, even if he did seem a little lost there. The scene in the theatre, with the grotesque stage show paying homage to the 1933 version and then Kong's escape was very good, and I loved the chemistry between Adrien Brody and Kong. Jackson handled Denham far more honestly than the first film was able to do (even if Jack Black isn't quite right for the role), and the film is as much about his undoing as it is about Kong's. Indeed, I can hardly imagine how Jackson hopes to redeem Denham for the rumoured Son of Kong remake. I could go on and on about what I liked because, generally, I think the film does work. I suspect I'll like it better on a second viewing, when I'm not so burdened by my (not always fair or valid) expectations.
I'm sure that I haven't done it justice. It's a marvel, warts and all.
Later, after the film, Spooky and I started Ray Bradbury's From the Dust Returned, which I received a couple of years back as a gift from Bill Schafer, but hadn't gotten around to reading. So far, I'm loving it.
Not much else to say. I heard today that copies of The Merewife are on their way to me, and I look forward to seeing it. Spooky sent out Sirenia Digest #1 a couple of hours ago, so those should be popping up in your inboxes. And I thought I'd repost the link to the FlamesRising.com interview, for anyone who might have missed it.
And what's this crazy dren about "the War on Xmas"? And why wasn't I invited?
Now, I think I'm gonna go freeze to death.