Saturday, January 07, 2006

KING KONG! A mean-spirited review with PLOT SPOILERS!

[Yes - I know this one comes too late, but it's only a couple of weeks old, and I think some people have yet to see the movie, and, hopefully, this review will prevent said people from going.]

Short Version:

My evening’s entertainment, including the price of a “gourmet” pretzel and a tub-sized Coke, cost me $12.50. If I ever have the pleasure of meeting Peter Jackson face to face, I’m going to make sure I beat every single penny’s worth of my King Kong experience out of that sawed-off kiwi pipsqueak.

Long Version (the one with spoilers):

Einstein’s theory of general relativity has a lot of people confused, including your Cranky Reviewer, but tonight I think I got a little bit closer to understanding how mass acts on the space/time dimension.

See, when the movie was over and Kong finally – to my silent cheering – fell off the ol’ Empire State Building I took out my watch and saw that I’d been held hostage by the movie for three hours. Only I knew better than to trust my watch. By my calculations, each of the two-trillion-or-so scenes was at least five hours too long, which means that I’d actually been sitting in that theatre watching “King Kong” for roughly the same amount of time it took for me to sit through all three years of high school. Yes – it was only a mere three hours of time as far as my watch was concerned, but I felt years older, used-up, beaten to black and blue and nigh mental incoherence by the obviously angry vicissitudes of life that I didn’t even know were kicking me in the kidneys with their big, heavy boots as all of my attention during what I must now call my Lost Years were spent focusing on Peter Jackson’s gazillion-dollar masturbation project and how much I’d come to hate everyone involved in it even before the giant gorilla made his first appearance (winter-break, sophomore year, for those of you marking your viewing calendar).

How to account for this? Well, I can only assume it’s because the impossibly great mass of Jackson’s by-now well-known obsession with the original “King Kong” somehow got translated onto each print of the film, creating in each theatre a singular theoretical point which in its turn creates an event horizon in which movie patrons, once trapped, cannot escape as time stretches into the infinite unknown.

I mean, there it is: a lesson in cosmology and physics as close as your nearest movie house. The “twins” paradox is paradoxical no more for those of us who have watched both King Kong and Disney’s The Black Hole.

One thing about getting older, though, is that some of us get meaner as the years get packed on. By the time this movie was over, my fantasies about beating up Peter Jackson had morphed into unprintable transports of gory extravagance. I’m an angry man, is what I’m saying.

And I’ve been disappointed a LOT lately in my movies. Sort of. I mean, I absolutely knew Doom was going to be a stinker, but I wanted to see how low it would go, and I think I got my money’s worth, if only because I went hoping for a truly wretched movie.

But I went to King Kong hoping for a good movie, an entertaining movie, and I was NOT rewarded. Not one bit.

It occurred to me, shortly after my tenth-grade fall semester mid-terms, or, for those of you in the earth-bound space/time continuum, when the ship finally shoves off for Skull Island, that the real problem with scenes that go on too long is that it gives one time to think about something other than the all-important HERE and NOW of the story being presented on the screen. And the reason this is bad is because the last thing one wants to give one’s suspension of disbelief is a chance to get, um, whatever the opposite of suspended is.

Let me put it to you this way, and this, I suppose, is a SPOILER(!), so movie-going purists should stop reading right now.

Still with me?

Okay, look: You know that scene in the original movie where King Kong and the Tyrannosaurus Rex go at it? It’s, what, ten minutes long? Five? Stop-action photography took forever to do, so they couldn’t milk that kind of thing.

Well, in Jackson’s homage, in what is clearly a classic example of the “Because We Can” school of filmmaking, Jackson’s version has three – yes, three - T-rexes in a scene that accounts for fully one of my three Lost Years. It goes roughly like this:

August – Thanksgiving Break: four-way cage match, Kong vs. the three T-Rexes.

Thanksgiving Break – second semester mid-terms: Kong vs. the three T-rexes on swinging vines in a canyon (they all fell in, you see . . .).

Second-semester mid-terms through the end of the summer break: Jackson somehow – I can’t really remember because I wasn’t paying attention – gets around to the more traditional Kong vs. a single T-Rex match-up, and shoots the one scene that is shorter than the original, if we don’t include what happened during August through roughly July 18.

And while this long fight is going on I began thinking things like, “When is this over?” and “Three? Why?” and “Criminy! How many times do we need shots of Kong saving the idiot blonde in impossible grabs?” and “Not only would her neck have been broken 97 times if this were happening in real life, I wish this WOULD happen in real life so her neck WOULD break!”

And then you become comfortable with your bitterness and bile as you start using your free time – you’ve long since lost interest in the actual fight – to think about other things. You begin picking over all the stupid things you saw previously and didn’t want to complain about out of a sense of “maybe it’ll get less stupid” generosity. By the time the third T-Rex was introduced, I’d built quite a list, and I had plenty of time to mull it over, really sink my mental teeth into that list, and go over it point by delicious point.

And this is when the LOGIC portion of one’s thinking fully takes over, and for a movie like King Kong, this is death – the point at which a fantasy movie is utterly beyond saving.

Because THEN you start thinking about what a creepy knucklehead Kong’s love interest is. I mean, the hostages for which we coined the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” didn’t cave in as easily or as quickly as the creepy knucklehead.

You start thinking, “You know, most rich guys would just have bought a large Hum-Vee to compensate for their size issues.”

You start thinking, “This movie is so bad I’ve decided to hate Jackson for his Lord of the Rings movies, too, even though I really like them, because now some sort of cosmic principle of karma or whatever is at stake.”

You start wondering things.

I wondered, for example, if God will punish me more for hating the movie so much or for having watched it in the first place.

I even wondered – I’m not kidding – if King Kong would need one gigantic heart to move that much blood around, or a bunch of little hearts, like the brontosaurus and similar dinosours had, cause of their long necks. Then I started wondering how large Skull Island would have to be to realistically sustain that many large herbivores and an apparently too-large predator population. Then I wondered if I should get cable so that I could watch the Discovery channel again because it was this really interesting documentary they showed several years ago about dinosaurs that got me thinking about it because Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” had come out and Crichton’s original novel was being picked over by on-the-bandwagon biologists looking to make a quick buck on the “Why It Can’t Be Done” publishing circuit, but it was all still pretty interesting, which is more than can be said about the “The Science of Star Trek” books, but only because I was never a real Trek fan anyway, and then I remembered that old Saturday Night Live skit where Shatner plays himself at a convention and says “Would you guys get a life?” and, man, I think tomorrow I’ll play his “Transformed Man” album because after this crappy movie I could really use a good laugh, and, you see, that’s just how the mind wanders when you watch Jackson’s King Kong.

You’ll think lots of interesting things yourself when you watch King Kong. You’ll have plenty of time and ammunition for it, that’s for sure. I mean, the “meeting the natives” scene alone is solid gold for haters looking for new things to legally hate.

Special Bonus Joke: As the First Mate’s final scene reaches its climax you’ll end up seeing just how useless a graduate degree in English Literature actually is. I’m sorry, but only those of you who’ve seen the movie can even begin to understand that particular joke.

Actually, you want to know the two points in the movie in which I first began to really despise the movie, and then despise Peter Jackson personally? I’ll tell you, if you don’t mind wading through a couple more SPOILERS:

It’s the two scenes where Kong and the creepy knucklehead bond and fall in love, or whatever it is they do.

See, the first scene is in the jungle, where Kong, a gigantic, man-eating gorilla, has finally set down the blonde bimbo and she’s looking for a way to not get eaten. Her solution?

She performs vaudeville pratfalls. See, in the movie she’s an out of work vaudeville performer, and . . . what ? No - I’m not joking.

Anyway, Kong sees her act and laughs. Once again, I ain’t kidding.

And so, of course, she thinks, “finally! A good review!” and she falls for the big, murderous lug. You’ll discover depths of emotion you were always afraid to admit you had when you see this scene.

The second scene, where they go ice-skating in New York on a winter’s evening and laugh and frolic and act all “Bambi On Ice For The First Time,” will be the scene where you begin imagining things for which you will have to repent, perhaps even confess to your local ecclesiastical authority, in order to save your soul from the eternal damnation that otherwise awaits you. Again, you only think I’m kidding, but you have not seen the movie yet and therefore remain na├»ve and unsullied. I envy you and your ignorance of true evil.

Completing the Bambi theme, the Ice Capades scene ends when Bambi – I mean Kong – meets WWI-era military ordinance for the first time. (“Man is in the forest, son!”) This is followed by several gazillion tedious months of Kong climbing a building, Kong being shot by planes (“How many civilians will those stray bullets kill,” you will logically think to yourself), and the creepy knucklehead getting right up there with him and saying:

“Stop! He only kills because he LOVES!”

Well, okay, she doesn’t actually say that, but you know that somewhere down the road, Jackson had his writers put that line in there, and only took it out because he needed those precious months of screen time for seventy-seven more shots of Kong looking poignantly at his growing collection of bullet holes. He’ll do that roughly 500 times before he dies.

And, finally, c’mon: Jack Black?

He couldn’t do a scene convincingly straight if his life depended on it. And because of this I can only hope that someday it does.

Yup. I guess you can say I pretty much hated Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

This is the Cranky Reviewer, logging off.

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