Peter Jackson’s remake of “King Kong” is part brilliant tour de force, part real mess, marred by excessive length, special-effects overload, and a wonderfully cast freighter crew that ends up with nothing in the movie to do (inluding the boat itself, the Venture, a dingy tramp steamer to end all dingy tramp steamers that’s really a personality in itself). Plus annoying messages, such as: White capitalist Depression-era Americans heartlessly exploited man and beast (and in some possible metaphoric reference to Hollywood’s version of Iraq war, our military does not come off morally well in this film).
So much waste in the movie, including the politically incorrect human natives of Kong’s habitat, Skull Island, who instead of being the gentle, in-tune-with-nature noble savages whom Hollywood usually offers us, are murderous bone-in-the-nose barbarians badly in need of visits from missionaries. I wanted to see a whole lot more of them. But like the freighter crew, they just disappear out of the film.
But there’s one thing to be said about “King Kong”–it’s got King Kong. And King Kong is, well, a brute but a guy you want to have around. You already know the story: the giant beast falls tragically in love with the beautiful maiden, here played absolutely luminously by Naomi Watts. The scenes between Kong (the touchingly expressive Andy Serkis, CGI’d) and Watts are positively magical, as she juggles and performs cartwheels to beguile him and sleeps curled up in his hairy hand.
It’s Kong, furthermore not the wimpy humans in the movie (epitomized by the fey Adrien Brody playing sensitive-writer Jack Driscoll and supposedly Watts’s love interest), who saves his lady from being eaten by dinosaurs. I loved the scene in which Kong first rips a stegosaurus’s jaw in half with his bare hands, then beats his chest with pride. Brody, as ever in this movie, arrives on the scene too late. No wonder he’s no match for King Kong in Watts’s heart
So I took away my own message from the movie: Whom would I rather have around when the going got tough: a jaw-jaw chattering class intellectual like Brody or a primitive red-state brute along the lines of King Kong? I think the answer’s pretty clear.