I caught King Kong last night, shelling out for the luxury of the Cinelounge on Courtenay Place. It was $4 bourbon and cokes delivered to my lazy-boy recliner and a never-ending popcorn supply. I needed it. We caught the 10.40pm session and didn't get out of there till 2am. I got a chuckle watching a stream of girls coming out of the cinema dabbing their eyes. At screenwriting school we had an informal competition running to try and write an ending to our scripts that would make our mentor, the playwright Ken Duncum cry. Only one of use achieved that, but I'm sure Ken would have shed a tear at the end of King Kong. I was too busy recovering from the vertigo-inducing shots of Kong atop the Empire State Building to get too emotional about his free fall to the New York streets.
All the hype and glorious five star reviews are true, Kong is fantastic. My favourite bits were:
The attacking giant Wetas and sucking slugs sequence: If any scene in the movie is going to give the kids nightmares, this is it. Our scariest looking living national treasure takes to Adrien Brody and company with a speed and viciousness you thankfully never see with the real three inch variety. I've got a "thing" about wetas after putting on a shoe a few days after arriving in New Zealand and surpisingly one of the angular little buggers who had camped out in there. The experience scarred me for life. But consider the scene in King Kong, where Brody is covered by a swarm of giant wetas all trying to gnaw away at him. Ouch! Almost more excruciating to watch was Colin Hanks trying to blast the creatures off Brody with his carbine. I was sure the screenwriter was going to be blown away, which wouldn't have done at all. The scene where Andy Serkis gets his head suckered by the pink, fleshy slug rivals the exploding chest scene in Alien.
The crumbling ridge scene: A bunch of impossibly nimble dinosaurs chase the Venture party along a rocky ledge, which crumbles under the weight of the beasts sending dinosaurs and crew mates spinning over the edge. I love watching people and animals falling off cliffs like those prehistoric mammoths Cromagnon Man used to chase over the edge.
Kong tearing up the Civic Theatre: If you've ever caught a movie seated on the top level at the Civic in Auckland you'll appreciate the leap Kong has to take to get up there in his attempt to catch Adrien Brody (there's a bit of jealously there on Kong's part you see). Eventually the giant ape leaps onto the top floor, which collapses under his weight and creates one of the best special effects shots of the movie.
Dive bombing Kong on the Empire State: The final sequence with the airforce attacking Kong with their machine guns is nothing but spectacular, but I like the way Jackson manipulates us by using some incredible, floating camera work. We seem to float around the tower and our view skewes as the planes zoom past at various angles. I was clutching the arms of my lazy-boy so as not to fall forward. The background scenery was also breath-taking.
The lame-ass bits:
The green, fluorescent exit signs in plain view in the Civic theatre. Why the hell didn't Jackson remove these or have them digitally erased? Maybe he thought they looked the part or could be mistaken for 1930s style exit signs. But the fact is. they can't. They are those garden-variety glowing green exit signs to get in any public building. As soon as I saw the first one I panned across to the exit sign of the theatre I was in and groaned. Why oh why did he keep the modern signage? In one shot, the sign appears, thankfully out of focus, right above Adrien Brody's head. For me, the presence of the signs was highly distracting and just made me think that despite all the special effects and attention to detail, the film makers had let a real clanger slip by.
The fact that Kong breaks loose from an evening show hosted by Jack Black at, say midnight at the latest and after a quick rampage through the streets of New York climbs the Empire State Building in time for the sun to come up. What happened to the seven or so hours in between?
I though the dialogue was by and large good except for the last line of the movie uttered by the unusually reserved Jack Black. An observer notes that the planes killed King Kong to which Black replies something to the effect of: "It wasn't the planes that killed him. Beauty killed the beast."
I guess he had to say something and he is a flaky film director after all but this line just deflated the ending for me.
Overall though a top-notch effort, which makes more than a little perturbed that the movie which cost nearly a quarter billion dollars to make, took a measly US$9.8 million on Wednesday and an even more pathetic $6.8million on Thursday at the US Box Office. I haven't seen any tallies yet for Friday but it's going to be a nail-biting weekend for Uinversal. They had hoped to bring in $100 million in the first three days of release. That sounds ludicrous, but consider the fact that Spiderman 2 took around $40 million in its opening day, such figures aren't out of the question.
What the hell is wrong with the yanks? This is their movie and the American critic loved it. I just hope it follows the trend set by Titantic and goes on to be a slow but incredibly profitable burner.