Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Movies: King Kong and Peter Jackson

I saw the new King Kong by Peter Jackson two nights ago, and what a joy. A movie movie. A spectacle. With a big heart. All about love – love of an ape for a human, and of the human taking joy in the ape’s affection. A worthy reinvention of the classic original, from a story by Edgar Wallace, who’s had no less than 190 movies made of his novels and stories, surely some kind of record.

I have a special fondness for those authors who create characters that become iconic archetypes: like Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island's Long John Silver), H.G. Wells (The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer), and Ian Fleming (James Bond).

Anyway, about the movie: see it. My girlfriend enjoyed it too, even though she is one of the few people growing up in America who is totally unfamiliar with the genre of movies I’ll call, for want of a useful term, “Hollywood blockbuster." However, she thought it was too long, and that sequences were milked to the utmost. But I lapped up every juicy second.

Interesting the relationship between ape boy and human girl: we have paradigms for big things who like little things, the way the big Ape loves the tiny girl -- in the same way, perhaps, that we big humans like precious little things, i.e. sparkling jewelry.

But what things do we like that are bigger than us? We like horses -- women especially like horses. However, Kong is bigger than a horse, way bigger. Well, we like mountains: maybe that's how the girl likes Kong, her big protector.

The movie is of course about the unbridled Id, or nature, if you will -- and how we humans treat it. We either exploit it (like the Jack Black character does); divert it or lead it away from society to make society safe from it (like the artist character Adrien Brody does when he leads Kong away from the people in Times Square); kill it (like the Army and Air Force do); or appreciate it (like the Noami Watts character does).

King Kong proves one thing: special effects are diverting, but if they’re not anchored by human emotions, and human characters, they’re a waste of money. In this case, not a cent was wasted, because every scene is human emotion-charged.

I wish the makers of action movies would realize this. Most good action movies miss being classics, because they forget character in their monomaniacal pursuit of event. Question in point: What makes my top action movies of all time -- The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2 with Mel Gibson), The Seven Samurai, Aliens, and Point Blank (Lee Marvin) -- better action movies than Diehard? Because the characters are better, even though Diehard throws in a wife of Bruce Willis to give him some character, but not enough. Peter Jackson’s King Kong is a great movie not because of the special effects, even though they are as special as they get, but because of the human emotions and human character of everybody, the Big Ape included.

I thought Peter Jackson’s previous outing, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was an excellent film translation of Tolkien, and in a way exposed its limitations, perhaps even the limitations of the fantasy genre itself.

But King Kong is more interesting than Lord of the Rings by far, and it proves Jackson to be the interesting director that his earlier films indicated.

This is, after all, a man who made a horror movie in which a man in the final horror vanishes up the huge vagina of his oppressive mom with a chainsaw (Dead Alive); a movie about the fantasy world of two teenage girls who commit murder (Heavenly Creatures); and the world’s only hard-core porn puppet movie (Meet the Feebles).

I hope after divesting himself of this King Kong-sized homage to his favorite movie, Peter Jackson will return to his former interestingness, and not become too Hollywoodized. (Heck, I have a few bizarre sci-fi novels for him the play with.) He has a Spielbergean command of his medium, but a far more interesting career – and mind – than Spielberg can ever hope for.


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