King Kong is a Winner

December 27, 2005 at 7:37pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The Missus and I stopped by Southpointe Cinema last night to check out King Kong, Peter Jackson’s latest three-hour epic. I went in open-minded, but skeptical. I left thinking “I have to own that movie”.

First, my skepticism. I’m wary of big-budget special effects flicks. Very few of them are done well enough to satisfy my picky eye. I have a hard time allowing myself to believe that computer-generated effects are real. My analytical brain goes into anal-retentive overdrive. My eye catches every little glitch, every green screen flaw, every shortcoming in the rendering software. I don’t want to see movies that way, but I do. It’s just how I’m wired. Thus, for me to really enjoy a special effects flick the director has to distract me so that I miss the flaws. Jurassic Park was the last movie to really succeed at distracting me. Until now.

Let me just come right out and say it: King Kong—the digital ape, that is—is incredible. Phenomenal. Outstanding. Peter Jackson clearly focused a ton of his team’s creative energy on making Kong as close to perfect as modern technology can achieve. He succeeded. In fact, part of what makes Kong so perfect is the fact that Kong isn’t perfect—he is old, scarred, and dirty. And Kong has a personality. He’s a big ol’ brute that has never had a friend, until Ann Darrow comes along. Peter Jackson makes all of that very believable.

Not all of the special effects are as believable as Kong, but by the time those flaws showed up, I didn’t care any more. Kong is the effect that matters. Still, the stampeding Apatasaurus scene had a definite green screen feel to it. The dinosaurs themselves were well done, and their movements were impressively rendered, but the actors and the digital effects just didn’t go together very well. The scene was thrown in for its action component, but I could have done without it (or with less of it).

One of the complaints I’ve heard and read about King Kong is that it is a story of woman-animal love in the, erm, sexual way. That is not true. There are two concurrent love stories in the movie, one among humans, one between a woman and an ape. But the latter is not a sexual love story. It’s a story about the love between friends, one of whom happens to be an ape. Many stories have been told of similar relationships between humans and dogs, horses, and other animals. This story just happens to feature a 25-foot gorilla. Peter Jackson wisely makes very clear that Ann Darrow loves the ape, but is in love with a man, in one of the final scenes.

King Kong isn’t a flawless movie. There are some loose ends left unresolved and some hiccups here and there. But overall it is a solid story told with solid acting among solid special effects, locations, and music. You can hardly ask for anything more than that.

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