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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Kong' an illogical, self-indulgent bore

There is a scene midway through "King Kong" that may be one of the worst in recent major motion picture history: Adrien Brody and Jack Black are chased by staggeringly unconvincing CGI dinosaurs and ward them off by (and this is not being made up) hitting the raptors in the face.

Such is the stuff of "King Kong," Peter Jackson's long-awaited follow-up to his Academy Award winning "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Critical consensus on the movie would indicate that the director has delivered a phenomenal film in the same epic mold as his previous pictures.

Critical consensus would be wrong.

"King Kong" isn't a great film, or even a good one. Instead, it is a misguided, over-bloated, self-indulgent picture posing as quality cinema. Sadly, "King Kong," rather than the grand entertainment it wants to be, is a train wreck on par with the "Star Wars" prequels and the "Matrix" sequels, a disappointing but effective reminder of what happens when directors let success go to their heads.

Conventional wisdom dictates that good sequels are rare and good remakes even rarer. Peter Jackson adds his name to the notorious list of great directors who have fallen victim to the remake bug, a surprisingly high-profile list that includes Gus Van Sant (1998's "Psycho") and Tim Burton (2002's "Planet of the Apes").

To its credit, "King Kong" starts out as an impeccable period piece, but once the plot sputters to a start, it becomes far more problematic. At the heart of Jackson's remake is the retooled love story. Now it's a bizarre and highly modern love triangle between Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts and King Kong himself. While in the original Anne was terrified of Kong, here she's kind of attracted to him. Who wouldn't love a giant gorilla, especially one who can take down more than one T-Rex dinosaur at the same time? So Anne falls in love with Kong (and vice-versa, obviously) while Jack Black schemes, Adrien Brody fumes heroically and pretty much everyone else becomes horror-movie-esque fodder.

In a strange twist of fate, "King Kong" feels undeveloped in many ways, despite a massively overblown running time of 186 minutes. The plot finds no true cohesion, which means the whole enterprise is fitfully paced throughout. "King Kong" should feel adventurous and spontaneous (as the original classic was), not heavy and labored-over. Resolution rarely derives from the plot, and instead stems from either convenient deus ex machina or sudden character shifts.

Though Kong himself is easily the most interesting character in the picture, that's really not saying much. None of the others get much to do except run from dinosaurs and fight giant insects. Character arcs are started, then abandoned and, despite a plethora of great actors, no humans in the film generate much interest. It's not a question of talent, though - it takes some serious skill to reduce Academy Award winner Adrien Brody and Tenacious D singer/Golden Globe nominee Jack Black to non-entities, but Jackson somehow manages to pull it off.

Plot holes are big enough to drive a bus through, leaving a metric ton of unanswered questions like: Where do the island natives go? Or how is it that Anne and Kong are able to have a moment in the instantly-empty streets of New York? Or how do Adrien Brody and Co. get chased by dinosaurs and giant bugs on the way inland on Skull Island, yet manage to waltz right out when plot necessitates?

Peter Jackson may be a good director, but King Kong is not a good film. It's a waste of money, a waste of potential and a waste of talent. He needs to take a step back and reconsider what made him so successful in the first place, something he must have forgotten - otherwise, how could he ever possibly in his right mind think that a chase scene in which Academy Award winner Adrien Brody and Tenacious D singer Jack Black hit CGI dinosaurs in the face is a good idea?