Alphabetical Movie – King Kong (1933) and King Kong (2005)
The first time I saw King Kong was at Butt-Numb-a-Thon 3 in 2001. I know, I’m a movie geek and it is ridicoulous I’d never seen the film. As I’m fond of saying, there are way more films that I haven’t seen than films that I have.
Now, if you are going to have a first experience watching King Kong, seeing a newly struck print of the film projected on the big screen is pretty much the best way to go. I was in love with the movie from the moment the title hit the screen. I knew that new print of King Kong was out there and eventually would be available on DVD. When that DVD finally hit the market, I bought it the same day.
The first time I saw Peter Jackson’s re-make of King Kong was at Butt-Numb-a-Thon 7 in 2005. I liked it a lot. But as I mentioned in my blog about Kick-Ass, when you watch a movie at Butt-Numb-a-Thon, it can be difficult to determine how good or bad it is outside the context of Butt-Numb-a-Thon.
Watching them back to back, I was finally able to evaluate Jackson’s Kong in the context of the classic (and still by far the best) Kong.
To understand Jackson’s Kong, you have to understand how much he loves the original King Kong. He loves that movie so much, he wanted to make a new version just because it would bring him closer to the original. He loves the original so much, that he wanted to make a film that filled in the gaps in the original.
That is why you end up with large amounts of extra footage on the ship to Skull island. It seems more like fan fiction to me than anything else. Jackson wanted to fill in those moments we never saw in the original film. He also loves Kong so much that he wanted to create an emotional connection with Kong. That meant we needed to spend more time with him and we needed enough time for Ann Darrow to develop and emotional connection to him.
What resulted, I think, is a movie that is just too damn long.
It moves at a glacial pace and it tries to get us invested in characters we simply don’t care about. When you watch how perfectly paced the original film is, you can’t help but notice how slowly Jackson’s version plods along.
Look, I love The Lord of the Rings and I really enjoy the special editions because they give you more of Jackson’s Middle Earth. He does a fine job with epic filmmaking.
The problem, I think is that King Kong isn’t an epic story. I don’t say that to dismiss the film. I only say it to suggest that Jackson wanted to create an epic when he made King Kong but he was working with at story that didn’t warrant that kind of treatment.
Does Kong really seem that much more badass if he kicks the ass of three tyrannosaurus rexes? King Kong is not Lawrence of Arabia and if you try to make it that way, the film doesn’t really work.
But Jackson loves Kong so much that he couldn’t help but make the story epic. What we get is a film that resided in Jackson’s head for years but was probably better while it was still in there.
The good thing about it, though, is that it will hopefully inspire younger audiences to seek out the original. That, my friends, is worth it.