Surviving King Kong
Because I'm unemployed this week and have canceled all plans and refuse to do a lick of work, I was able to carve out time to see "King Kong," Peter Jackson's boffo $4.3 billion big-screen blockbuster that lists at 3 hours 7 minutes but feels like a fortnight. I am pretty sure the first Gulf War was shorter. Jackson is a huge talent who feels he must cram all of it onto the screen in every shot. The More Is Better school of filmmaking gives you a lot for a $7 matinee ticket, so you don't feel cheated, just battered to the edge of unconsciousness. Some will argue it's all great fun, a "popcorn" movie, but popcorn is supposed to be a snack and not the sustenance you require when trapped for much of the day in a dark theater. This is less a movie than an exhibition of film technology, of what people like Jackson can do if the studio writes a really fat check. The story is not merely overshadowed by special effects, it is nearly abandoned. About a quarter of the way into the script, characters harden in caricatures, or are dropped altogether, or, like Naomi Watts, turn into props. The filmic strategy is, you establish the characters in the first 45 minutes and then, that onerous duty out of the way, let them run and stumble and look amazed and dart between the legs of rampaging dinosaurs and so on until the credits roll. For a comic-book tale, it takes itself too seriously, and desperately needs a few sight gags or inside jokes ("We're gonna need a bigger banana.") Just to recalibrate, I think I need to rent a classic movie that's black-and-white, with subtitles.
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