King Kong (1933) lobby card
This is a repost of a review I originally wrote back in 2005.
King Kong (2005) follows most of the major plot points of the original (1933) – the crew of the ship “Venture” stumbles on a mysterious fog covered uncharted island. There, they find that gigantic creatures including dinosaurs and an ape known as Kong inhabit the island. When one of their crew is kidnapped and offered up as a sacrifice to the ape beast, the crew of the Venture must go into the deadly heart of the island to attempt rescue.
There were a few changes made to the characters. This time, filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) is in debt up to his eyeballs and sees filming on an uncharted island as the perfect location to finishing a movie he has partially complete and making a little money in the process. Ann Darow (Naomi Watts) is a struggling actress brought on the trip more for her dress size, the same as the previous actress who has dropped out of the picture, than her acting skills. Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) is the writer of Denham’s movie, and only goes on the trip when Denham tricks him into staying on the boat a few minutes too long while casting off in order to finish the script.
The most notable difference between the versions is the relationship between Kong and Darrow. In the original, Kong is a beast who holds onto Darrow as a prize not wanting to give her back. She wants to get escape the beast, but she is no more than a plaything to Kong. In the remake, Kong also kidnaps Darrow but their relationship changes throughout the movie; it evolves to something special, something different. Darrow comes to see the true Kong, a creature who’s the last of his kind all alone in this world, and understands him. Most interesting of all, one thing I thought while watching the remake was that the Kong/Darrow relationship was more in line with The Iron Giant and Hogarth Hughes in The Iron Giant (1999) movie than wild beast/helpless woman of the original.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong has a much darker vision of the world that Kong exists in than the 1933 original. In his version, Darrow is so down on her luck that she considers stripping for money. At one point, a member of Denham’s crew is killed execution style with a club to the head by the island natives. A crewman from the Venture is swallowed alive by a slug-like creature and goes down screaming.
And that’s one of the problems with the movie. It’s almost as if Jackson wants to present the story of King Kong as a fantastical adventure mixed with realism. In the fantasy King Kong, characters run in between the legs of stampeding Brontosaurus while being chased by velociraptor-like dinosaurs. These characters keep up with the stampede delivering on-the-mark perfect machine-gun shots to the dinosaurs chasing them.
Then, though, Jackson seems to want to switch gears showing the “realities” of Skull Island. Characters are so frightened they cry, one of the characters is graphically speared by a native and as Kong searches out Darrow in downtown New York he chases down women matching her “look” and tosses them aside like rag dolls when he does not find her.
I’m not sure these two competing styles work together. At one point we’re to believe in the fantastical, the next the realistic. It’s a tough sell and I’m not sure Jackson is able to pull it off.
But what really hurts King Kong are several rather large plot-holes present throughout the story. These holes do detract greatly from the movie overall and I would chalk these up to either sloppy writing, bad editing or bits of the movie being cut out to cut down on the already long running time. However, even though there are problems with the overall story and mood, the character of Kong is magnificent. He is a joy to watch and acts and looks, for the most part, like a real ape. He becomes a real character. And I think that’s a very important quality here – in the confines of this movie Kong is real. When Kong dies at the end, it is a sad moment and not a relief as in the original. I would expect that by this point people would have become so emotionally involved with Kong that they might cry at his death.
I just wish that Peter Jackson could have delivered more emotional attachment with the rest of King Kong (2005) as he did with the last twenty minutes of the movie. (8/10)
The parade of movies to TV series this season continues with the latest show Taken on NBC. The TV Taken is a prequel series to the film trilogy of the same name that starred Liam Neeson. This time Clive Standen, who’s a British actor and is I’m assuming mostly unfamiliar to US audiences, takes over the role of ex-special forces operative with a “very particular set of skills” Bryan Mills who was put on this planet to chew bubblegum and kick butt, and has long been out of gum.
The first episode opens with Mills being hunted by a narco kingpin who’s son Mills killed some years before when he was a Green Beret. The kingpin wants to take Mills alive to make him suffer for what he did but what he wasn’t counting on is Mills and his skills at dodging assassins, punching people in the face and not getting shot in any vital organs. Also following Mills since they’re using him to lure the kingpin out of hiding is Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals) the head of some super-secret spy agency who, along with her five or six employees, seems to be in control of all the US intelligence agencies. These six people alternate from interrogating cartel members to attacking compounds SEAL Team Six style.
To me, Taken felt a lot like a 1980s cops and robbers series like Miami Vice or Knight Rider where the good guys are very good and the bad guys are very bad in a world of black and white without any grey. There is absolutely no confusion as to if what Mills and company are doing is right or wrong, in Taken they’re doing God’s work in cleaning up the streets, and because of all this and because of how heavy handed everything’s handled Taken is one dull show.
Actually, if Mills had a talking car ala Knight Rider that might make for an interesting series, otherwise I’m done with Taken.
Last week actor Bill Paxton died unexpectedly after complications from surgery. Now I’d guess most readers of this blog would know of Paxton, or at least would know him by sight as a guy who turned up in loads of genera movies over the years and made those roles better. Paxton played doomed punk in Terminator, the evil brother Chet in Weird Science, vampire Severen in the oh-so extremely underrated Near Dark, “…is my specialty!” Detective Jerry Lambert in Predator 2, Morgan Earp in Tombstone, Fred Haise in Apollo 13, Mallroy’s dad in Haywire, Master Sergeant Farell in Edge of Tomorrow and most recently as Det. Frank Rourke aka the best thing about the TV series Training Day to name a scant few. Jesus, to look at just some of Paxton’s roles there and how many hours I’ve spent watching movies he was a part of is mind-boggling.
But Paxton is probably most well known as playing Private Hudson in the movie Aliens who turns from a cocky gung-ho Marine one minute to a quivering ball of nerves meek-man the next after the alien monsters wipe out his squad before becoming a heroic figure by the end of the film. His most famous line “Game over man!” has been loved by some, mocked by a few, made fun of by the clueless and has been in our pop-culture psyche for decades now. I think the reason we remember the line is because of how Paxton delivered it, in his over-the-top totally freaked-out I wanna be anywhere but here way. I think delivered any other way by any other actor that line would have been all but forgotten in a movie that exists in this sea of other great lines and visuals.
“Game over man” kind’a encapsulates Paxton’s career as a whole. He’s the guy who’d turn up in these movies in small to medium-sized parts and would steal the show. There’s been quite a few people over the years who’ve made fun of his dry acting style, but dry or not at the end of the day his style was memorable even when the movies he was in were not. He’s the kind of actor that I’d give a chance to whatever movie he was a part of since no matter if the movie was good or bad, Paxton was going to be great in it.
Over the last few years it seemed as if Paxton’s career was starting to have a second act of sorts. Recently, he co-starred in the critically acclaimed Hatfields & McCoys TV mini-series and began having parts in movies like Nightcrawler and the above mentioned Edge of Tomorrow. And with him starring in the CBS series Training Day it seemed like Paxton might be about to break through to another level of acting stardom.
But I guess that just wasn’t destined to happen but regardless of whether or not Paxton was or wasn’t well-known to most of the movie-going public, to those of us who knew him through his work Paxton will always be a giant of the genera cinema and will be greatly missed.
Lethal Weapon, one of the finest buddy-cop movies ever was released 30 years ago this week. Its writer Shane Black would have a hand in creating some truly memorable movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and last year’s The Nice Guys. Currently, Black is filming the upcoming The Predator movie due out next year.
“Where is it?”
“Let me list all the ways you’re gonna die.”
So, Anyway… is writer/actor/director John Cleese’s autobiography from earliest memory to right up until the point of the creation of Monty Python. I’m guessing the book stops there since there’s been so much written about Cleese and especially Monty Python from that period that it would be redundant, but still, So, Anyway… is a wonderful book with lots of interesting facts and anecdotes of Cleese’s life. Like, I knew how close he was to Graham Chapman but I didn’t realize things like the second future-Python he met was Terry Gilliam or that Cheese did hundreds of hours of comedy radio while also appearing on TV in various comedy/sketch shows while climbing up the comedy ranks early in his career.
The movie King Kong has been around for 80+ years, has now been remade three times and the original is, rightly so, considered a classic film. However, after the latest remake Kong: Skull Island was announced last year and I went back and rewatched the original movie in preparation for this article I spent some time thinking about the King Kong movies as a whole and came to one uncomfortable fact; basically King Kong is about this giant ape who finds a relatively tiny human woman to be the most attractive thing its ever seen. So much so that he’s willing to wreck and entire city and kill scores of people until he’s able to find his prize. How weird is that!?
The 1933 original King Kong as well as the 1976 and 2005 versions follow essentially the same story. The crew of a ship lands at an uncharted and unexplored island where they find a lost civilization as well as a gigantic ape the locals call “Kong.” Things go wrong for the crew when Kong kidnaps a beautiful blonde-haired woman which forces the crew to venture into the island to rescue her from the clutches of the giant ape. The island contains many dangers and some of the crew are killed but in the end they manage to rescue the girl, subdue Kong, place him on their ship and take him back to New York City. Where, of course, Kong escapes, causes damage and destruction before finding and again kidnapping the beautiful blonde-haired girl, climbing up the tallest building in town before being shot to death by military aircraft. “It was beauty that killed the beast.” The end.
Except there’s the whole thing with Kong’s obsession with that girl.
My question is, why does Kong find that particular woman so attractive/noticeable? So much that on the island he steals her off to his jungle lair and won’t give her up? I suppose there’s an argument to be made that it’s not the girl that Kong likes, it’s that she’s this new and unique “thing” on the island. That he’s never seen a blond-haired woman before and views her as an object he wants. Except that in the movie when Kong’s on the loose in New York he finds another woman who also has blonde-hair but isn’t the right one and tosses her aside until he happens to stumble upon the real blonde before taking her up to the top of the Empire State Building.
To me, Kong’s obsession is just weird. Size wise, it’s almost like some person found a particular mouse they really liked, and it turned out their “like” was more “love” and only this particular mouse would do. And even if this mouse escaped, the person would scour the world looking for this one rodent even though there are similar mice everywhere.
I suppose one could argue too that maybe Kong sees the blonde-haired beauty as a pet? Yet there’s a scene in the movie where Kong literally tries to peal off her clothes. Maybe Kong does this because he’s a monster and doesn’t understand what clothes are? But this scene has such an obvious sexual undertone I’m not sure if could be seen any other way.
And now into all this questionable giant-ape lusting after the blonde-beauties comes this third remake; Kong: Skull Island out March 10. This time the beauty is played by Brie Larson in a more militaristic film that’s set in the 1970s. Here, soldiers in helicopter gunships find more than they bargained for when they begin charting an unexplored island when a truly gigantic ape, something so big that it makes the original 1933 Kong look small, attacks their group and forces everyone go on the run.
My feeling is that any sort of odd ape/girl vibe that might be coursing through the original will be excised for this new more action-originated take on the Kong story, since explosions and machine guns tend to get people into the theaters and not apes trying to take the lead actresses clothes off in an weird way.