Four days ago I apologized for being a little too kind to Peter Jackson’s King Kong way back in December of ’05. I didn’t care for the first 70 minutes, I said back then, but the rest of it more or less worked. But wait — I’ve just discovered a 12.21.05 piece (“Kong Badness“) in which I took the film to task for a multitude of sins. My 2017 mea culpa wouldn’t be complete without reposting it:
I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot here. I’m a fan of Peter Jackson‘s King Kong…after the 70-minute mark. A modified fan, I should say, because I’m not over-the-moon about it. I liked the rousing CG stuff and the emotional stirrings during the scenes between Kong (i.e., Andy Serkis) and Naomi Watts…but let’s not get carried away.
The point is that this 187-minute movie is full of bits that drive me up the wall, and I have to admit it feels more comfortable and natural being in a bash mode. How do I vaguely detest thee, Kong? Going from the top…
The once-celebrated, now-being-scrutinized Bronto run sequence in Peter Jackson’s King Kong
* Jackson should have included an overture of Max Steiner’s music as a soundtrack-only supplement on the front of the film, to be heard in semi-darkness before the Universal logo and the credits come on, etc. This happened when I first saw Kong at the Academy theatre on the evening of Sunday, 12.4, and Steiner played like gangbusters.
* Captain Englehorn is an Idiot, Part 1: The German-born skipper (Thomas Kretschmann) presumably knows Jack Black‘s Carl Denham desperately needs a fetching actress to come along on the voyage and presumably wants Denham to succeed so he’ll get fully paid, and yet the first thing he says when he meets Naomi Watt’s Ann Darrow is to express surprise that she “would take such a risk.”
* The ship is pulling out of the harbor and Adrien Brody‘s Jack Driscoll is so keen on getting paid that he doesn’t feel the engines rumbling and the ship moving? He doesn’t say anything to the check-writing Denham as the ship is obviously leaving the wharf?
* Captain Englehorn is an Idiot, Part 2: Since he tells Denham that the first check bounced, it can be assumed that he hasn’t been paid a dime. And yet he’s taking his ship and crew on a long and very expensive sea voyage, trusting that a guy he obviously doesn’t trust will cough up later on.
* That ominous music on the soundtrack and that dumb-ass look of alarm on that actor’s face (Evan Parke or some other guy?) when those bottles of chloroform roll out from the animal cage in the ship’s storage area.
The completely idiotic Capt. Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann, second from left with hat) contemplating the Big Wall
* All of that prolonged bonding crap between Parke and Jamie Bell, and those mentions of Joseph Conrad‘s “Heart of Darkness”…a complete bore and a waste of time.
* Captain Englehorn is an Idiot, Part 3: As they sail the Indian Ocean he tells Denham he’s going to drop him off at the nearest Asian port since he’s just gotten a radio message that there’s a warrant out for Denham’s arrest…which will make certain that Englehorn will never get paid and will be stuck for the cost of the voyage out of his own pocket.
* Captain Englehorn is an Idiot, Part 4: As they approach Skull Island Englehorn is told that the depth is getting shallower and shallower, and yet he proceeds right ahead and smashes the ship into the rocks.
* The area of Skull Island protected by the big wall is all rock even though the rest of the island is all prehistoric flora…green, fertile, covered in overgrowth. How does that work exactly? I’ll tell you how it works. Jackson and co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens decided that the villagers live on a barren rocky peninsula.
* The Skull Island natives are ridiculous gargoyles trying to act as deranged and bizarre as possible because Jackson told them to do this. (Being unencumbered by matters of taste and restraint allows for all kinds of creative decisions.) I mean, some of the islanders are obviously white New Zealanders with blue or gray eyes and brown-skin makeup, and some look African-American…and it’s all bullshit.
* A Skull Island native is going to pole-vault from the island to Englehorn’s ship in order to abduct Darrow?
* The Skull Islanders are going to use a sophisticated cranking-crane system made of wood and vines and crude rope in order to lower human sacrificial offerings to Kong over the gorge behind the big wall?. Jackson came up with this idiotic contraption because he didn’t want to copy the sacrifice sequence in Merian C. Cooper‘s original film too closely…period.
* The more I think about the Bronto run sequence, the more absurd it seems. This bit was cool the first time and I went with it, yes, but there’s no way those guys running under the bellies and legs of the dinosaurs wouldn’t be ketchup.
* Jackson portrays Kyle Chandler’s Bruce Baxter character as a narcissist and a coward in the early stages of the hunt on Skull Island. His defining act is to return to the ship early after chickenheartedly rationalizing that Darrow is almost certainly dead. And yet he switches gears a half-hour later by convincing Englehorn and a few others to return to the treacherous jungle terrain to help Driscoll and the survivors of Kong’s attack, and they arrive just in time to start shooting at the bugs in the pit.
* Jackson’s two snotty references to the 1933 Merian C. Cooper film. He has Darrow and Baxter say the dialogue from a romantic scene in the ’33 film as a way of saying to the audience, “Listen to that hokey dialogue.” And in Denham’s New York stage show in Act Three he recreates the look of Cooper’s Skull Island characters and has them do that bent-over Kong sacrifice dance.
There is no inspiration in the context of the film for this — it’s just another Jackson wank. And he’s clearly making a point that Cooper’s film is hokey and antiquated, and that his is far more on top of it.