The Monkey Movie (updated)

Kong2I loved it.

I love the original as well, though it’s flawed, of course. Peter Jackson’s version isn’t perfect, either–would that Jack Black had more depth as an actor, there’s just no charm to his con man–but it’s pretty damn close, and emotionally, it hits the mark.

I love that the violence is jarring enough that it makes Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow’s reactions to and feelings for Kong completely believable. I love the Joseph Conrad references and the look of the whole thing. The costumes and set dressing and how seamless the picture is, from Skull Island to period New York. I love that the male movie star gets to be interesting and only brave when it’s absolutely required. I love that the writer gets to be a convincing hero. I love that this island of monsters is the scariest island of monsters ever. That Kong is lonely and alone in such a terrible place. That the costumes of the "savages" at his theatrical debut back in New York quote the native dress in the original. How amazing the visual storytelling is and how little dialogue is necessary. So many, many things. I love that watching this movie made me feel like watching the original did when I was kid.

Most of all, I love the scenes between Watts and Kong. Just as in the original, it’s the interactions between the lady and Kong that steal the show, but I actually think these scenes are better. She is luminous. Not only does she hold her own against Kong (another remarkable turn by Andy Serkis), she’s able to reflect her humanity onto him. Watts is simply WONDERFUL.

I love that this is a huge, huge movie and that it still has so much to say at the personal and the societal levels.

That scene on the ice. Beautiful.

See also:
Megan O’Rourke in Slate on the sexual politics
David Edelstein’s review
A.O. Scott in the NYT
Stephen Hunter in the WaPo

And two more:
Silliman (via Matt)
Roger Ebert

10 thoughts on “The Monkey Movie (updated)”

  1. I really didn’t like King Kong at all. Every time Jack Black turned to the camera to say, “He didn’t die for nothing. He died doing what he loved. We’ll donate the proceeds to his family,” I cringed. When he delivered that famous last line about the beauty killing the beast, I laughed out loud despite the fact that I knew it was coming.
    I don’t understand why Jackson likes to have these weird, out-of-place homoerotic scenes, like the weird ones between the black skipper and his sailor boy. It’s like Jackson is trying to be artistic but not putting in even a 1/4th of the effort needed to do so. They reminded me of the Liv Tyler dream scenes in LotR.
    And the 20-minute fight scene between Kong and the T-rexs was probably one of the most self-indulgent scenes I’ve ever seen. I’ve never had an action scene bore me so much.
    Maybe if that movie had been cut in half I would have liked it more.

  2. Well, Simon, you say tomato, I say tomatoh. I have a feeling you either love or hate this movie, with little ground in between. I loved it (with a few minor quibbles — mostly on the Jack Black tip).

  3. One man’s fatherly is another man’s homoerotic, I guess.
    I think the fact that Black’s character could repeatedly deliver such cringe-worthy lines and honestly expect the people around him to buy into his bullshit was kind of the point, really.
    They had me with the bit about not being able to get “Fay” because she was doing a picture for RKO.

  4. Yeah, I enjoyed that too, David. And I don’t think Black was a total failure in the role, as some people seem to — I just think he was overmatched at times, especially by Watts and Brody. Or to put it another way: I can imagine someone else doing the role. He didn’t own it, but he didn’t flub it either.
    And, yeah, it’s a wonderful movie. The more I think about it, the more I love it. I love its sincerity.

  5. I loved the movie. I didn’t expect to, but I did. I cried through the last act. I thought it was wonderfully gorgeous and good acting, casting, etc. And I usually hate this kind of big-budget thing.

  6. I went with a group of friends and when we left the theatre afterwards and not say one thing about the film for ten minutes… well then… you know we ALL loved it.
    The only flaw for me (already mentioned) was that little side plot of Jimmy and the Black Dude. I didn’t care for either character.

  7. Well, I’ve already offered my thoughts elsewhere. But I’m really surprised that hardly anyone (film critics or bloggers) has remarked on the terrible Asian stereotype who contributes nothing to the plot and is essentially there, presumably because Jackson delights in revitalizing the spirit of Sidney Toler.
    However, having said that, I still dug the stampede scene, which was utterly ridiculous in the way it played out yet enjoyable on some kitsch level. Also, the Empire State Building sequence did give me a certain vertigo. So I don’t think Jackson completely failed, but he needs to be thrown on a leash.

  8. Gwenda: Didn’t love it. Found some of it amazing and some of it too long. Naomi Watts, what can I say? I liked her better in Mullholland Drive, but she was good — and always easy on the eyes. Jack Black tried really hard, but he just didn’t get it. Brody was a stiff. The ape was awesome. Johnny, or whatever his name was, the kid who was reading Heart of Darkness, couldn’t become Skull Island Monster bait fast enough for me. I did like when he was shooting the bugs on Brody with the machine gun because I thought he was going to off him right there. Dug that crazy old native woman who was giving Watts the finger and telling her “Doobie Doobie Kong.” And I agree, that scene on the ice with the Christmas trees is a little bit of visual and mythic ecstasy. But I cried at the end, not because Kong took the plunge, but because my ass was aching from 3 hours plus. And when Kong died, I was kind of like, “Ok, let’s go.” When he was falling off the building and the planes were flying around it made me dizzy, but I’m not blaming that on the movie — I’m just fucked up. The last line by Black rang flat. All together not bad, but I had a deeper emotional reaction to Harryhausens ball of clay come to life for some reason, because he didn’t seem to understand his predicament. This Kong had an air of the inevitable about him, like, “Oh, I guess this is where I have to fall off the Empire State Building because I’m a world weary martyr. Glad those who loved it did, though. I wanted to.

  9. It is pointless to hate this movie

    Im talking about Kong, of course. Various folks have weighed in at length (heres Matt, heres Gwenda; both of them have links to others), so theres not much point in me saying much beyond the title of this post. Of course som…

  10. It is pointless to hate this movie

    Im talking about Kong, of course. Various folks have weighed in at length (heres Matt, heres Gwenda; both of them have links to others), so theres not much point in me saying much beyond the title of this post. Of course som…

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