Monday, December 19, 2005

Movie Review: KING KONG

Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong is near-perfect. Sure, it’s probably too long; a lot should have been saved for the inevitable three-disc "extended director's cut" DVD. But it is thrilling, jaw-droppingly clever, and quite wonderful. And it’s a loving tribute to the 1933 original.

All of which makes it difficult to understand why Jackson betrayed the memory of the great Merian C. Cooper with Jack Black’s cynical portrayal of Carl Denham. Explorer-filmmaker Cooper (pictured here) wrote the story for, produced, and directed the first Kong, and he was the model for its Denham — a proud, damn-the-torpedoes adventurer who, yes, captured Kong and brought him to America but still respected the monster. Denham was, as much as the Jack Driscoll character, a hero in the original movie. He was a risk-taker, but he was responsible. He was admirable. He was, well, Merian C. Cooper. As a kid, I didn’t want to be Jack Driscoll. I wanted to be Carl Denham.

Black’s Denham is really the remake’s villain. He’s introduced as a somewhat lovable, sympathetic, down-and-out moviemaker; a visit to Skull Island is his last shot at success. But as the story progresses, he becomes an increasingly vile exploiter, not just of Kong but of his colleagues and employees. He’s a taker. Denham thinks “doing the right thing” is what others do to make him a wealthy man. The 1933 Denham (actor Robert Armstrong) had a lot of Barnum in him, but he cared about his people, and he even cared about Kong. It was fitting that as Denham looked upon the fallen gorilla, he spoke the movie’s famous closing line: “It was beauty killed the beast.” When Jack Black’s Denham utters those words in the new Kong, you feel like shouting, “No, you sanctimonious prick...it was you who killed the beast!”

Ah, well... Peter Jackson can be forgiven a lot. His new King Kong is top-notch.

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2 Comments:

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Tom Novak said...

"It's Mr Denham who's responsible for capturing Kong. He's the brave one. He stood there and chucked bombs at him while we were all running like scared rabbits."

Bruce Cabot, as Jack Driscoll in the original - or pretty darn close to what he says anyway.

Son of Kong shows that Carl Denham is really a darn nice guy (in Mighty Joe Young too, even if he does have a diff. name.)

 
At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gummint and capital done killt the beast. mayhap the irony wuz intentional and the movie anarchistic.

 

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