Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From the Vaults: Giant Man-Eating Bugs Bore Me!

I wish I could remember who it was that told me recently that Peter Jackson's King Kong was a great movie. Whoever you are: You Were Wrong, and here's my review from 2008 to prove it. I also think that 2008 may be the last time we sat down and watched a movie (I don't count Thor as "sitting down and watching a movie", though the critiques of King Kong are also surprisingly relevant to that cinematic spectacle.)


So we felt like watching a movie last night. This is an increasingly rare occurrence, as we're usually too tired or preoccupied these days to tie up two hours of our precious free time post-girl-bedtime. But last night we tied up three hours watching King Kong, and all I can say is that Peter Jackson owes me back the extra hour with which he padded his bloated movie.

Peter Jackson does lavish spectacle well -- we've all seen Lord of the Rings. Perhaps he does better work when he's presented with a plot-heavy saga to whittle down into nine 0r so hours of screen time. But his King Kong is thirty minutes of plot jam-packed into three hours of increasingly distancing special effects extravaganza. A bit of action in a movie gets one's adrenaline pumping. Strata after strata of over-the-top dinosaur stampedes and ape chases and Kong fighting men and Kong fighting three dinosaurs at the same time with a girl in his hand! so ossified our suspension of disbelief that by the time giant insects and spiders and tapeworms were devouring our heroes and one guy was using a machine gun to shoot hordes of scorpions off another guy, we were yawning and checking the time. And this from the people who spent a tense half-hour in a stand-off with a single cockroach just hours earlier. (Now that was a situation with real dramatic potential.)

Oh Peter Jackson. What happened? I wanted to like your movie. But why the character development for the ship's crew who suddenly fall off the screen in the last hour? Where did all the natives of the island come from and disappear to? Why the massive and unneccesary plot holes in what should have been such a compact story? Why couldn't we see more of Colin Hanks' production assistant, who was the only character I cared about? How on earth can anyone make a movie that winds up with me skipping past a scene of a guy being eaten by multiple huge tapeworms not because I'm horrified but because I'm numbed by the preceding interminable action sequences? The mind boggles.

Perhaps in my old age I'm getting jaded, but when I chose to spend an evening of my valuable spare time with a movie, I like to be entertained or challenged or at least somewhat involved. Is that too much to ask of the exact same production team that made Lord of the Rings?


Lauren said...

Agree wholeheartedly. Peter Jackson's style needs a story with real substance to make all the overblown action and interminable slow mo shots worth it. King Kong isn't it.

We also don't get to watch many films. We recently wasted some precious evening hours on Benjamin Button. What a yawner! It's like a bad version of Forest Gump (and I don't think that movie was anything to write home about.) I didn't care about any of the characters. It was a blah love story with the gloss of fantasy (made up reverse aging disease.)

Anonymous said...

I found the best way to watch King Kong. One day I accidentally tuned in to the Kong v. 3 Dinosaurs scene. After the scene ended, I turned off the movie.

Great movie. Loved it.

Rob Alspaugh

Brandon said...

It can easily be made better by turning it into a drinking game; take a shot every time you see King Kong.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about better, Brandon, but it sounds like your version would be short and extremely dangerous.

My office mate argues, sed contra, that movies about giant apes should not be judged on the basis of plot holes. And don't you like zombie moves?

Rob Alspaugh

Anonymous said...

i loathed this movie for the same reasons. interminable.


Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to watch it on a plane. This particular airline charges money for headphones, so to us it was a rather charming silent film that we saw out of the corner of our eye.

Note: it is NOT a good sign when you know exactly what is going on in nearly every scene without the dialogue (at least not for a talkie anyway)


mary said...

I had the same reaction years ago when I saw it but could not put it into words so well. Well said.