WPCNR SITTIN IN THE BALCONY. Review by Johnny Matinee. April 30, 2006: ROARRRRRRRRRRRR! Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong which your celluloid scribe observed at that reclusive Hollywood and Broadway investor Mr. Hilton Swank’s private palatial home theater in the picky producer’s secret Westchester hideaway last night gives you great ape, but not enough of the big guy.
Andy Serkis playing the title role of “tallest, darkest leading man” in Hollywood steals the show rendering the kind of dangerous rogue women love. He’s sensitive and powerful, dangerous to love, jealous, impossible not to be fascinated by, and tempermental.
More hypnotic than Dracula, with a nasty temper and an aesthetic appreciation of a simian Vincent Price, this is an ape we need to see more of. The Brad Pitts, Keefer Sutherlands, Tom Cruises and George Clooneys, those pretty boys who pass for leading men these days are through, and they have no physiques like Kong. Those arms, girls!
What is it about women and outlaws anyway? Mr. Serkis, in close-ups with Naomi Watts, in the ingénue-is-born-role for our time, the "Fay Wray Screamer," gives expressions thorough his ape make-up that communicate the tortured serenity of an artist who much rather be left alone in his mountain seaside aerie on Skull Island with The Blonde of His Dreams, watching sunrises and sunsets. His appreciation for Ms. Watts comes through
Jackson’s special effects and makeup artists have made Andy Serkis into a giant ape with character, deep sensitive worry lines and yes, even an intellectual edge to his savagery. Eyes that thrill a woman with his piercing looks. For a character that never utters words except for roars and belches, grunts and snorts, Serkis’s Kong communicates better than most men, and delivers better dialogue than most screenwriters can write these days.
One roar and a sultry deep sign from this Kong would melt the coldest blonde – and those pecs, man!
King Kong 2005 throws everything at you, from the tawdry New York City of 1933, compete with Hooverville and old time movie palaces as the film opens, a depression ridden city where everyone is hustling and begging for a buck. A lot like White Plains today.
The unscrupulous promoter, Jack Black as Carl Denham (looking like Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock in The Producers) plays the Robert Armstrong role, trying to pitch a jungle movie to his dummy Board of Directors – (sounds like a page right out of today’s Westchester County arts intrigues, doesn’t it?).
The backers are not buying and want to know from Denham what they got for their $40 grand? (At least they know what to ask happens to their money – but that’s another story.)
Denham knows he has to act fast or he’s through. He has to set sail for the jungle before the producers pull their funding. He hits the streets of NY looking for a leading lady and finds Ann Darrow, aspiring hoofer and actress, who has just refused a job in a burlesque house. He thinks she will do for the role of heroine in the jungle movie and offers her the job. She asks, “How can I trust you?” He says. “I’m a movie producer.” (Said with a straight face.) You have to love this snappy 1930s dialogue. The ape’s lines are better.
The glorious tramp steamer voyage is next, filled with “original” score music reminiscent of the Van Helsing score, and lots of long shots of the ship at sea. On the voyage, Adrien Brody as Driscoll the playwright, (tricked on board to write the screen play), develops a love interest with the ingénue, Ms. Darrow. This is that old longing look romance that I find quite preferable to the jump into bed romance preferred in the grotesquely heavily sexed films of today. (When Laraine Day straightened Cary Grant’s tie in Mr. Lucky, that said more than today’s actresses who simply grab something on the Male anatomy, but I digress.)
The tramp steamer itself is every cliché in the tramp steamer handbook, winches, capstands, pistons churning, lit decks and fog as the steamer makes its way to Skull Island. Special effects of fog and the ship floundering on Kong shaped rocks are splendidly done and very believable. The ship is great.
The voodoo village on Skull island is gruesome with so many skeletons and truly ugly natives that jump out of nowhere to kill the crew that any date you bring to a movie will be clinging to you, big fella.
Cutting to the leading man’s entry at the big sacrifice scene, Kong’s entrance is fantastic! He carries Ms. Darrow off to the jungle. But Ms. Darrow is no ordinary sacrifice. She karate kicks him in the thumb…and takes the Fay Wray role to new depths of meaning by impressing the ape with her liberatedness and spunk. (Thirties heroines were big on spunk).
The ape roars back at her, flicks her with his giant fingers, knocking her down. It’s the first time we see Serkis genius (or the computer animator), at displaying this is no dumb, savage ape here. The ape is impressed with Ms. Darrow, though she is about the size of his hand.
Meanwhile, the crew from the ship under the leadership of the playwright, Driscoll, played bv Adrien Brody is trapsing after the ape, with producer Denham shooting film of the lost world.
The script succumbs to thriller standbys here and loses control, spending about two hours of footage as the crew fights their way through a brontosaurus stampede, attacks by raptors, and then truly ugly and sardonic T-Rexes, created by digital animation.
The Rexes pursue Ms. Darrow and Kong comes to her rescue. This results in 30 minutes of the most violent wild WWF match between the Rexes and The Kong that keep you on the edge of your seat. Ms. Darrow, swinging from vine to vine with the valiant ape stays glamorous in true- thirties movie fashion, while avoiding the chops of the T-Rexes who view her as an hors d'oeuvre.
As Darrow’s rescue party falls into a deep pit, the Ape escapes with Ms. Darrow in hand, flips her up on his shoulder much in the way Marlon Brando bids the waitress get on his motorcycle in The Wild One. It’s a great gesture, as if the ape, is saying “Get on, Kid.”
The rescue party battles the most gruesome monsters at the bottom of the cliff, including man-eating slugs, (easily the most gruesome scene since The Alien), spiders and cockroaches(A thoroughly gratuitious violence sequence).
Meanwhile...back in Kong’s mountain top layer overlooking the Pacific, Ms. Darrow and Mr. Kong develop their relationship. She amuses him with her juggling and tumbling act. He is impressed. The young lady has talent. Eventually she falls asleep in his palm as the brooding Kong stares out at the sunset. It is a beautiful part of the film. Beware those powerful and sensitive misunderstood types!
Brody, as the playwright, decides he’s going to rescue Ann himself, and the film fails to show him trek through the dinosaur invested jungle to find the ape-napped blondie.
He finds her, and as pterodactyls attack, the ape is distracted and they escape.
With Kong in hot pursuit, the mad producer convinces the crew to attempt to capture Kong.
This is achieved and jump-cut!
We are back in New York. In a total leap of fate expectation, the audience is expected to think that they towed the ape back to New York from the South Pacific in a ship hardly bigger than a large cabin cruiser, and kept him fed for the two month sail back to New York. (At least in the 30s movie they towed the ape back on a barge.) I mean, this is really bad script writing – but hey that’s movies today. Millions for the special effects guys, peanuts for the writers, or rather bananas.
The ape is in his opening night in N.Y. In chains at a movie palace lovingly recreated, I presume digitally by the special effect army. Now as the blonde beauty is brought out on stage to enact the sacrifice scene, she lifts her head. Kong realizes it is not Ann Darrow. He flips out! And then the fun begins. Kong breaks loose! All havoc ensues for about 30 minutes until the famous end of the film.
There is one preposterous sequence of Kong discovering ice with Naomi Watts (as Darrow) on the Central Park lake, and they actually emulate a figure skating Ice Dancing couple, as the ape’s human side is gamely portrayed by Mr. Serkis (or his computer double). I mean the ice scene is ludicrous. But an enterprising figure skating ice dance couple should do a routine in the USFS championships based on this.
Ka-boom! Army artillery breaks up the ice dancing, and the ape heads to the Empire State Building.
As dawn breaks, he and the Blonde watch the sun rise, as they had watched the sun set in the Skull Island lair, while commuters arrive below in the city streets – a typical city rush hour.
The moodiness and sensitivity Mr. Serkis brings to the role and Ms. Watts’ total believability in showing her caring for the big lug in the sad last moments are terrific.
At long last as Kong is sent to his demise, Adrien Brody climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and embraces Watts despite the winds aloft, and despite Ms. Darrow being in high heels. But hey, only in Hollywood can you stand on a 5 foot platform 1500 feet over New York City in 25 knot winds in spike heels and not fall off.
King Kong 2005 throws it all in there: dinosaurs, gruesome chewing up of persons by hungry monsters, savage natives, spookiness, sudden appearances of really icky monsters, and fantasic backdrops of New York City in the 30s. Spending two hours on Skull Island – was a little long, however, with just a little tooooo much monsters and not enough ape.
I say Naomi Watts gets the Oscar and forget Brokeback Mountain – Serkis as Kong and Watts as Ann Darrow are Hollywood’s sexiest couple. What pulls this wallapalooza off is the fine character acting by all the extras --playing it strictly straight and serious. I liked Thomas Kretschmann as the Captain, and all of the crew in all their scurviness-- and bravery.
Serkis has to reprise his role. How about this twist?
The devious Denham takes a piece of Kong’s hair at the end of the movie. Denham sells the story of Kong to Hollywood and becomes rich. His great grandson finds the piece of Kong’s hair and finances research to clone Kong at New York Presbyterian Hospital in White Plains.
On a tour Darrow’s daughter stops in White Plains to open Wal Mart with Mayor Delfino. Kong sees the story in the White Plains Times and breaks out of the New York Presbyterian Hospital grounds As The Mayor tells Wal Mart, "We Can't Thank you enough," Kong rears up over Wal-Mart with a roar.
Kong climbs to the top of the City Center Towers, after disrupting a Common Council meeting. What do you think, Cecil, I can produce it for a little under $10 Million, whaddya-say?