31 December, 2005

The New "King" of Cinema

It's been a little while since I saw Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005) but it has stayed in my mind. I was very happy with my choice to go see it before the masses could at 12:01 AM on the day of its release. The theater did not appear to be sold out that night, which disappointed me a little bit, but those of us who did make it there had a blast. I won $10 bucks to a comic book store that I will probably never spend in answering a trivia question in the pre-screening festivities but a great deal of self-satisfaction came along with it, so I was happy.

The film is three hours long, but it was not bad at all to sit through, especially considering the hour in which I was viewing it. It felt an appropriate length, any longer and it would have begun to drag. The acting was all very impressive, although Jack Black still stuck out as a bit of an odd choice for the role of Carl Denham, especially since he had to deliver the famous final line of "It was beauty killed the beast." Naomi Watts was good, straying quite a bit from Fay Wray's portrayal of the character of Ann Darrow, in showing more compassion for the misunderstood beast. Adrien Brody was strong, but his role as Jack Driscoll really didn't allow him much room to really shine and show audiences what he's capable of, given a challening role, such as that in The Pianist (2002).

One noteworthy creative choice for this film would be that of the Ann/Kong relationship. In the original, Kong seemed to love Ann, but she was afraid of him for the entirety of the film. Peter Jackson decided to create a mutual relationship in his film, which is intriguing to follow but feels a little bit excessive and awkward at times. This may have been done to show up close interaction between humans and CGI characters, because the CGI in this film should be showcased. This was a beautiful film overall, especially the computer generated elements. Kong himself looked very life like, not to knock Willis O'Brien's groundbreaking stop motion creature in 1933. The interaction between human and computer generated elements was flawless as well. Some of the most exciting moments in the film came from CGI, such as Kong's battle with multiple T-Rex and an updated "Spider Pit" sequence with terrifying CG bugs.

I was very impressed with the film overall and was very happy to see someone undertake this project with such passion and drive. Hopefully this film will stir up some interest in contemporary audiences for the original masterpiece. I can't see this film becoming a classic, especially considering the shadow of the original hanging over it, but it will entertain audiences for a long time. This film will mark a high point in Peter Jackson's career and is a very impressive follow up to his monumental Lord of the Rings films. I certainly hope people see this film in the theater, because it is more fun on the big screen with an audience. It is also a very good movie and is aware of the prowess of the original, apparent through creative homages and in-jokes. This film works beautifully as a modern update of a classic that I'd hail as timeless, but in need of some technical modernization, something the 1976 remake didn't really succeed with. I hope everyone can see this in the theater and I'm just going to wait for a beautiful DVD of this film, hopefully chock full of extra features.

06 December, 2005

The Original "King" of Cinema

Before I begin, I'd just like to point out how lame the Law and Order: SVU theme is, I hate hearing it. Anyway here we go. It will be freezing cold, it will be a ridiculous hour of the night and it will be a weekday, but I hope to be overwhelmed with anticipation and among the company of my closest friends. The night of December 13/14 will be awesome. Peter Jackson's reimagining ("remake" just doesn't sound glorious enough for something of this caliber) of King Kong will hit theaters at 12:01 AM on this night and reawaken the public's love for this gentle, yet misunderstood giant who has left his mark on pop culture over the last 70 years.

Sure, I'm excited for the new film, but I have recently become very excited about the original as well. With the release of King Kong (1933) onto DVD for the first time last month, I was finally able to easily see it again, after many years, when I had caught it on TV or on VHS. Being a film nerd, I was excited for the DVD set that included the original film, its sequel, Son of Kong (1933) and Mighty Joe Young (1949). This was an awesome set with in-depth special features regarding the original film that should quench the thirst of cinephiles such as myself until the new film comes out. I was a little apprehensive about watching the film, afraid I might find it ridiculously aged or corny. However, I watched it twice in the two days and loved it. Some of the acting does appear very stiff and the special effects aren't done by WETA or ILM, but this film catalyzed the evolution of cinema into what we know it as today.

This film is timeless in many regards. Sure, the acting may be a little flat, very 1930s, and reminiscent of the acting style of the silent era, and the special effects aren't that of a Spielberg film, but this film still holds it own. The effects still work some 70 years since its release, and it's very interesting to watch the film and try to figure out how all the special effects shots were pulled off. Additionally, the story of a creature entering a monstrous rage upon being prejudged and misunderstood is an idea that has been used many times since, and remains relevant. The film is just fun to watch, as well. On the surface, it's a monster movie and can fulfill that niche if that's what a viewer is looking for.

One of the best parts of this film is the score. Often, I'm disappointed with the scores of older films, as I have grown accustom to pivotal role music plays in most films of today. However, King Kong utilizes its masterful score to the fullest, using it often, much like recent films do. It is so infused with the film that it is even used to accentuate sound effects at some points. This use of film music is another one of King Kong's marks on the evolution of cinema.

The sheer time and energy that were put into the production of the film are astounding to observe as well. Much of this would be lost on the average viewer, however, with the new DVD, it can be seen how painstaking the stop-motion effects are and how much money was poured into this production at the time, despite much apprehension from the studio executives. The immensity of the production is astounding to try to grasp and can really get viewers to appreciate how impressive this movie was at the time, and remains today.

Upon recently seeing this film again, I can understand why it is hailed as such a classic and why it is loved by cineastes everywhere. Peter Jackson is certainly no exception to this rule, as this film is his favorite of all time. The new version of King Kong should be exceptional because of Jackson's directorial prowess and sheer love for this film. King Kong is a gem of cinema and it's great to see so much interest for a classic being reawakened after so many years with the release of the new film.