Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Friday, December 23, 2005

King Kong...

... would be a great movie if they took out the hour and a half of chick flick.

OK, maybe that's not entirely fair. I mean, the action scenes are padded to fuck as well, so it's not entirely that Jackson's taken a tight wee B-movie about a giant ape and crowbarred in, you know, all that girly emotional stuff. Like the scene on the ice in Central Park. I mean, it almost works; it does walk a fine line between heart-warmingly touching and insufferably cloying, but, well, that scene's just about the right length at least. So maybe it's just that the movie as a whole had a tone of timewasting and the vast it seemed based on Naomi Watts and Kong going all cow-eyed over each other. I'm not an insensitive man; honest, I'm not. But there's only a certain depth of development you can get out of a relationship where communication pretty much consists of thumping yer chest and grunting.

But, no. The truth is, I think, it's not so much a superfluous hour and a half of chick flick, as much as it's a superfluous hour and a half of everything. Every single scene in the movie, to my mind, could probably stand to be told in half the time. As an example, there's this scene near the beginning, where Jackson establishes the Jack Black character with a screening held for financiers. They discuss things, hem and haw, and eventually they ask Black to step outside. He eavesdrops and realises they're going to cut his funding, so he legs it. Sound fair enough? Yeah, well the discussion is entirely unneccessary. Here's a suggestion: cut it. The screening stops; they ask Black to step outside; he eavesdrops, legs it -- you could get the whole thing done in half the time, impart the same information and get on with the fucking story. The action sequences suffer from the same fat. Much of it's visually and viscerally great but after an hour of characters running this way and that way from beasties and savages and Kong and dinosaurs and creepy-crawlies, you know, there's just so little actually happening -- in plot terms -- that the effect wears off. Giant leech things? Cool. But can we get on with the fucking story?

It's the same all the way through. Jackson does not really need to take a sodding hour just to get his characters to Skull Island, but his slow boat to China steams slooooooooowly on as he takes forever building up the starlet/writer relationship (yeah, yeah, like it's a big surprise, Peter... get on with the fucking story), the thematic parallels (yeah, yeah, Heart of Darkness, very literate, Peter... get on with the fucking story), and a subplot of sorts involving "Jimmy" (the kid from Billy Elliot) and one of those bad-ass but wise-and-balanced black characters (you know: the "Leave me here. Go on without me." character who's clearly going to impart words of wisdom and then DIE HORRIBLY.) As I say: get on with the fucking story.

I say "subplot", but this is one of the things that annoyed me: if you're expecting any sort of revelatory resolution to that whole, "hey, that Jimmy kid's a *wild* one, but he's a *kid*, right, so I guess that's sorta symbolic of *innocence*, and he's reading *Conrad*, which is all about *savagery*, so that's, like, a theme we're dealing with, you know, and we keep making a big deal of this minor character, so clearly this is *important*"... you know, that whole narrative thread thing... if you're expecting anything other than for the character to be abandoned utterly, a pretty bauble of referentiality which reflects meaning rather than embodying it, discarded as soon as they leave the island... you'll be sorely disappointed.

Fuck, I don't mind Jackson using these cabin boy and first mate cliches, but if he's going to make a big deal of them he could do better than just nicking a couple of characters from Apocalypse Now (you know, Lance the innocent, and the black captain of the ship who, of course, DIES HORRIBLY). He could have done more than just throw them a few lines of portentious dialogue for some ersatz pseudo-Conradian weight in the first two-thirds of the movie. He could have made something of it. He's waving a big red flag called Conrad, shouting loud and clear about an "emotional journey", but the nearest we get to that is Jimmy's realisation that "this isn't an adventure story, is it?". Is Jimmy faced with "the horror, the horror" of humanity-as-beast? Does he stare into the abyss, into his own heart of darkness? Does the death of his Magical Negro friend lead to a moment of dark epiphany? Is he broken, scarred, in any way changed by the experience? Or is the character just dropped and kicked under the rug as Jackson moves off the island and back to New York?

Feh.

But believe it or not, I didn't hate this movie. It's just that it's so fattened up with scene after scene after scene which could have been half the length and twice as good that, by the time we get to Kong's showdown with the biplanes atop the Empire State, as they buzz him and shoot him, and he swats them, and they buzz him and shoot him, and he swats them again, and he gets one, but they buzz him and shoot him a bit more, and so on, by the time we have Kong slipping sloooooowly away with one last look of love at Naomi Watts -- Christ, by that time, part of me was screaming out "just fucking die already!" There's a great movie in there. There really is. It's just not fucking three hours long. I mean, I'm not yer average ADD-addled adrenalin junky. I'll happily watch a three hour movie if it fucking works as a three hour movie. I'm not complaining that Kong wasn't some thrill-a-minute rollercoaster ride of a schlockbuster. I just think its an hour and a half movie (two hours tops) padded out to a ridiculous length.

The big lummox needs to be cut down to size.

4 Comments:

Blogger David Moles said...

It'd be interesting to see somebody edit this one down to the length of the original. There's probably room for two or three fairly different movies in there.

7:10 pm  
Blogger Paul F Cockburn said...

Sadly, when a director has delivered something as financially successful as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy to a studio, they're probably going to be a bit reluctant to suggest he's going on a bit. Which is a shame; I'm quite sure it'd be a great 90 - 100 minute movie, even if I'm still rather doubtful about the "a girl will fall for a guy - no matter how much back hair he has - if he's just saved her from a hostile dinosaur". Is that reactionary, or what?

2:46 pm  
Anonymous Bob said...

Well, I've still not seen it, but I tell ya: the game absolutely rocks! Sorry, am I bringing the tone down? Heh.

9:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.livejournal.com/users/mumpsimus_feed/137014.html

Link to Comment on your comment and what Peter Jackson said...

Hehe

11:40 pm  

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