King Kong

Today we took advantage of the lack of snow here, and took a trip up to London to see King Kong, Peter Jackson’s remake of the original 1933 movie.

The trip very nearly didn’t get started, we turned up in pretty good time for the train, leaving about fifteen minutes before the train was due. However we had to go from Wokingham, due to the main line through Woking being closed for maintenance over the Christmas and New Year period. When we got to Wokingham there was one ticket window open, and a queue pretty well out the door, and at the front two people buying an annual season ticket, and not having filled out the relevant form correctly. It is worth noting at this point that through all of this one of the other staff members on the station was very slowly sweeping the platform – quite why he couldn’t open the other ticket window and help clear the backlog I don’t know. Anyway, once they had finished, including one return push to the front of the queue, the tickets for the next few people were sold pretty quickly, until with the train rolling in, and us still two from the front of the queue, the next person again asked for an annual season ticket. At this point rather than participate in the potential lynching that seemed to be brewing in the queue behind us, we decided to take the risk, and try and buy the tickets on the train, which thankfully was pretty straightforward.

We decided to go see the film at the Odeon Leicester Square, on the same digital screen on which we had seen Star Wars earlier in the year. This time around the stalls and royal circle were almost full when we bought tickets, so instead we opted for the rear circle where we could still get seats in the centre of the block. To some extent this proved to be a better location, as with the size of the screen, with a seat in the stalls you can’t actually take in the whole screen as it’s just so big!

The film was excellent. Although it has been criticised for it’s length, we thought that despite a run time of about three hours, it didn’t really seem too long. Compared to the original version , and the 1976 remake there was a lot more backstory before the action reaches Skull Island. The bulk of this film is actually the chase across the island, leading ultimately to the capture of Kong, although even in the New York finale there is time for some restbite, with a great sequence with Kong playing on the ice in Central Park. In fact through all the film the use of CGI rather than stop frame animation has allowed new or enhanced scenes, with multiple dinosaurs including a spectacular dino-stampede, and some scenes with giant insects that had Beth jumping out of her seat.

This actually brings me on to perhaps the biggest difference between this film and the earlier versions, the fact that through modern CGI techniques there is actually an actor – Andy Serkis – who ‘plays’ Kong. What this gives is much more of a character to the giant ape, and much more believability to the whole thing than the stop frame animation of the older versions can ever give. This together with the significantly increased screen time that he gets as a character gives a much more satisfying result. One other noticeable change is that Kong actually remains the same size during the whole movie – in the original he is noticably significantly bigger when climbing the Empire State Building.

The other important difference between this and the previous remake, which again helps with the believability is that Jackson returns the film to it’s original 1930’s timeframe, rather than reworking the plot for a modern setting. To some extent the idea of a barely known island is a lot more believable in a 30’s setting than in age when people are orbiting the planet from space!

All in all we thought it was a great film, and although as a technical achievement the special effects of the original film should be noted, in terms of telling a story, the 2005 version is by far the best.

Anyway, after seeing the film, we decided to have a meal before we headed home. As usual, the restaurants around Leicester Square were crazy with long waits for a table everywhere, so we took a wander down to the Texas Embassy where we had been for the recent Geek Dinner and sample their regular menu. We were lucky, as a table for two was available as we walked in – there were a number of bigger parties with just as long wait as up around Leicester Square. We were not disappointed with the food either, and despite the location, the price was comparable with a good restaurant around Reading. Certainly somewhere we will go back to another time.

2 thoughts on “King Kong”

  1. In terms of telling a story, Jackson’s KING KONG is a bloated mess.

    1. How did the natives suddenly disappear?

    2. Why is THIS Kong a grumpy old man, and not a genuine movie monster?

    3. How did they get Kong to new York?

    4. Why does Carl Denham end the movie saying “Beauty killed the Beast”, when the heroine has done nothing but tried to stop people from capturing OR killing Kong through the entire movie?

    Worst. Kong. Ever.

  2. It definitely seems that Jacksons version is a film that really divides opinion – certainly both your review, and the Lucius Shepard review that you linked to make interesting reading – although the comment in the last paragraph of the Shepard review “Some of my friends were so adamant that I had missed the boat on Kong, a couple of days ago I sat through it a second time.” re-enforces this that opinion is divided.

    In terms of the points you raise, point two seems to be the key issue – Jackson set out to give Kong a character, rather than produce a straight monster movie – take a look at some of the comments in this BBC article:

    “This is no mere monster movie, it is very much a character piece and very much about relationships. A lot of the themes in the film are about isolation and love, with all the characters isolated in some way.”

    So if you do go to see Kong expecting a straightforward monster flick you are going to be disappointed.

    Moving on to the other points, looking at point 1, bear in mind that the village looked deserted when the crew of the ship arrived, and also that they scattered when the crew started shooting later on – I would think that in the same way the villagers have scattered or in hiding, and whilst for completeness they could have shown some explanation, in a three hour long film, having such a tangental scene that is not needed from a plot point of view is a waste of screen time. The same can be said in terms of point 3, we don’t need to see Kong on the ship, or see exactly how he is transported to New York, as the important plot points occur in New York and on the island.

    The “Beauty killed the Beast” line comes from the original movie. As you say, the heroine has done nothing but try to stop people hurting Kong, however she has ultimately led to the death of the beast, as a comment on the same line in the original movie on the UnMuseum site makes clear:

    The giant ape’s gentle fascination with Fay Wray’s character provides the centerpiece to the picture: a tragic, at least for Kong, retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

    The way Kong is trapped is to use ‘beauty’ as the bait, and he escapes the theatre in a search for ‘beauty’ – so whilst it wasn’t direct, beauty did result in the beast being killed.

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