I saw Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong on the American Airlines flight from Chicago to Santa Ana, California. Understand that this review, such as it is, is no doubt affected by the circumstances: even in first class, we’re watching the movie on little TV sets, to which the movie has been reformatted; and even with noise-cancelling headphones, there’s still a lot of noise in the environment.
Surprisingly, my word for it is boring. At several points I felt like returning to my magazines. In the theatre I’m sure I would’ve squirmed.
I’m not sure if Jack Black as the driven and self-centered filmmaker Carl Denham is brilliant or off-key.
There seem to be all kinds of plot threads everywhere, not always tied up. The deck hand Billy reading Heart of Darkness seems to pick out the Conradian nature of S.S. Venture’s master, Captain Engelhorn, but Engelhorn disappears from the movie when Venture leaves Skull Island.
Why is Venture carrying an enormous cargo of quart bottles of chlorofom? And, when the crew dump all moveables overboard to float the ship off Skull Island’s rocks, why is the chlorofom not included?
For that matter, why is Venture carrying a crate of Thompson sub–machine guns? And, given that there is such a crate, why did Captain Engelhorn’s first dramatic rescue (of three!) of Denham & al. involve the use of just a Luger? While I’m on the subject of Thompsons, one of the neat things about The Lord of the Rings was that the actors’ swords weighed as much as real swords would, which meant that the actors carried them properly, walked properly. A Thompson with a 50-round drum magazine weighs, what, twenty pounds? 25? Yet those carrying waved them around like, well, prop guns.
How did Denham, the half-mad filmmaker, become the smooth theatre man?
And certain events repeat themselves: I lost count of all the dramatic surprise rescues. And at least twice Ann and Kong have crypto-romantic moments interrupted by sneak attacks from the U.S. Army.
And my final geek complaint: how is Kong so invulnerable to gunfire? Eventually the airborne machine guns finish him off, but midway through the movie he’s hit by dozens (at least) of rounds from the Thompsons, but doesn’t seem at all fazed.
The big problem with the movie is that you have time to wonder all these things. I found it amazingly slow and meandering and (as I noted) thread-dropping. The only other Peter Jackson movie I’ve seen is The Lord of the Rings and it has none of these faults. I’ve read that Jackson had wanted to remake King Kong for years, but after seeing it I wondered why.