Jackson Very Terrible Try to Make Better

It’s that time again, where I watch the entire filmography of the director of the film I’ve been assigned for Cinema 52. Unlike Tony Scott or Robert Zemeckis, however, the director of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring can’t seem to ever release just one cut of his films. So, not only am I cramming twelve movies into one exhausting weekend, but specifically the longest available version of each film. That’s right, it’s not just the complete Peter Jackson… it’s COMPLETER JACKSON. Let’s do this.

KING KONG (2005)

IS THIS A PAINFULLY LONG PETER? The Deluxe Extended Edition clocks in at 201 minutes, which is weird, because I have a sneaking suspicion that this story should only take 100 minutes to tell.

THE PLOT:
Do I really have to tell you? Okay… so 1930s filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) needs to make a hit movie ASAP, so he grabs 1930s struggling vaudevillian actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and sets a course for Skull Island, along with a bunch of other 1930s characters that don’t fucking matter (Colin Hanks, Adrien Brody, Kyle Chandler, Thomas Kretschmann, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell, Lobo Chan, etc.).

In my heart, Kyle Chandler always matters.

But when they get there, uh-oh.

Look out, Ann! I think it’s the big monkey from the poster!
Also, the original movie that we’ve all heard of!

Okay, now let me switch discs, because it’s already been an hour. Seriously, this is a problem. Even big-time critics who loved this movie, like Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin, note that it’s too long, but does it matter? Oh, it matters, you guys. It matters because that first hour sets up a bunch of characters that we don’t care about and have little to no story arc. The movie is only this long because it’s what we’ve come to expect from Peter Jackson now: a sweeping, epic adaptation that’s three hours long and will have even more movie upon its home video release. There is no reason this couldn’t have been more streamlined, and we can’t pretend this problem doesn’t get worse later in his career, because we all know he eventually turns one book into three movies.

Right, so giant critters and dinosaurs.

Yipe!

These scenes are action-packed and fun, but they start to wear out their welcome pretty fast. What’s that sound? I bet it’s an animal that’s bigger than usual. Again. Anyway, they get back to New York and you know the deal.

THE STYLE:
While this is trying to be a spectacle on the same scale as The Lord of the Rings, it evokes a different mood, mostly because its a completely different kind of story. One of its charms is recreating the look and feel of the ’30s.

Some great nostalgia for people who would rather watch the original.

This includes many shots of all the poor people. For historical accuracy. Or social commentary?

They can’t afford to see Kong, maybe?

Also, rather than being a screaming captive the entire time, Ann Darrow now has a close and mutual connection with Kong, which symbolizes, um…

Man’s… eternal struggle with, uh…

Okay, seriously, I think Peter Jackson is trying to say something with this remake, but I have no idea what it is. So many moments hit you with a sort of “a ha, clever, eh?” feeling that it seems they desperately need you to believe this is more than just a fun giant ape movie. And then there’s this dialogue exchange…

Preston: “He was right, about there still being some mystery left in this world.
And we can all have a piece of it… for the price of an admission ticket.”
Jack: “That’s the thing you come to learn about Carl.
His unfailing ability to destroy the things he loves.”

Are you Carl Denham, Peter Jackson? Are you commenting on your own destruction of a film you love? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL US?

THE EFFECTS:
We’re in full-on Computer Town at this point.

Look at all that green.

It’s great CGI, mind you. I could make a snarky comment about how it probably won’t hold up for very long, but hey, that’s the nature of special effects. I mean, just look at this shit pile.

Faaaaake.

I would, however, like to point out that the overabundance of CGI creatures made the couple of scenes where they bothered to use an actual puppet for a second stick out like crazy.

Behold, the mighty flailing chicken lizard thing!

And now, I’d like to talk about the performance of Kong without getting any shit over who the real genius is behind mocap acting. Congratulations, Andy Serkis AND the animation team, this Kong is amazing. He feels like a real gorilla. The best thing about Jackson-style Kong is that you frequently have no idea why he’s grunting or beating his chest or throwing things, and that makes him come across like the confused beast that he is.

“Honey, what’d I say? Come back.”

FINAL THOUGHTS:
For all my complaining, I didn’t hate this movie. As remakes go, I actually enjoyed quite a bit of it. It’s got a lot of great action scenes and amazing effects, but it is bloated as all fuck. The padding is mostly unnecessary dialogue that adds little to the story or characters in a way that feels complete, or creature-fightin’ sequences that just feel like more of the same. At this point in his career, I wish Peter Jackson understood that the grandness of an adventure doesn’t just come from the runtime.

UP NEXT: The Lovely Bones (2009)

Note: I saw the original cut of Peter Jackson’s King Kong in theaters, and while this version was less enjoyable, I still felt the same way about the overlength of the theatrical release.