Wednesday, December 14, 2005

King Kong : A Great Example Of The Power of Film

Peter Jackson's epic remake of "King Kong" contains several scenes where the actors do stunts that you know they'd never survive in real life. But such is the amazing power of this film; you go along with all of them.

King Kong is an amazing film in many technical areas, but it manages to avoid surpressing the story for the special effects. Star Wars' creator George Lucas once said "Special effects without a story is a pretty boring thing." King Kong is certainly not that.

The audience at the midnight show of the three-hour event sat in rapt attention, as Mr. Jackson propelled us through a vast set of environments. Much positive text will be devoted to the presentation of Skull Island. But for me the real star of the show was 1933 New York. WETA has forever solved the problem of depth perception in CGI movies. The city actually feels big on screen. And every detail -- including the popular architectural and urban design features of the New York of that era -- were lovingly captured. It's still very hard for me to tell if what I saw was just a digitally animated image. It's that good.

I also enjoyed the character interplay between Jack Black's Carl Denholm and everyone else. Naomi Watts is the best emoter of any actress stuck with the difficult task of CGI work. Adrian Broady was quite right for his role as the writer Mr. Driscoll, but he could have done with one more tender moments with Ms. Darrow.

The only aspect of the film I found hard to accept was that Watt's / Darrow's fears of possibly failing thousands of feet from the Empire State Building were not activated. In real life, they would be ; it's far too windy up there! My fear of heights was certainly activated in this film, yet I knew it was all digitally produced -- someone forgot to tell my stomach.

Kong was simply wonderful both as a character and as a special effect. You do come away with some feeling for the creatures plight. But I wondered if Watts' Darrow would ever realize the futility of her relationship with the creature. It's as if she was so busy reaching out to have something she was willing to settle for the impossible.

I do recommend this movie. The only thing I'd change is the CGI work on the boats and the actors in them as they were coming away from The Venture -- their lighting was too bright and contrasty versus the digital surroundings.

And does this movie have to have an African American man (Hayes) die an early, dramatic death? Why can't he live? Why does he have to do something heroically dumb? Kong tossing him toward the rock wall made me wish I was there to tell him to stop being a hero and go hide before the gorilla gets him.

It also made me wish I had a set of hand grenades: ten would have done the trick: two for Kong and thrown in his mouth, one each for the T-rexes of which there were three, and the rest (six) to bomb the hell out of those spiders before they got to me.

Yep, with ten grenades -- and a machine gun -- I'd have survived just long enough to get off Skull Island. But the simple fact that I imagined this protection for myself speaks to the visceral impact of this great example of the power of film.