King Kong DEC 15 2005
[Warning: there's some spoilers in here.]
I don't really know what to make of Peter Jackson's King Kong. On the one hand, it's a fantastic movie, a huge blockbuster, chock full of amazing special effects. And not just that but an engaging plot, good acting, and a meaning beyond what's happening on the screen. But Kong is also very cheesy, like Michael Bay-grade cheesy. Cheesy but not schlocky, which leads me to believe it's intentional on Jackson's part, an homage to the original Kong and other 30s swashbuckler romance adventure pics. In that respect, Kong is like Star Wars, a corny film that works because it's supposed to be a space opera, not a serious dramatic film.
The other thing I was thinking of while watching the film was how easy it is to be cynical about this film. At its core, Kong is a love story between an ape and a woman...how can you not make fun of that? Some of the special effects sequences are probably over-long and implausible. The 30s-style moviemaking is ripe for snark. But judging from the reaction of the NYC audience I saw it with, Jackson made it work. Just before Kong runs amok at the end of the film, a character remarks that Carl Denham (Jack Black) destroys the things he loves. There are many possible lessons contained in that statement, but perhaps the one Peter Jackson had most in mind was its application to the cynicsm of Hollywood filmmaking. His last four films have been hugely merchandised, expensive to make, and made him rich, but when you watch them it's clear that Jackson really really loves 30s movies, fantasy, filmmaking, Tolkien's books, and King Kong...and he celebrates the things he loves. As long as Jackson stays true to what he loves, I'm willing to cut him some slack and resist the contemporary urge to be cynical about everything and let him entertain me.
 The 30s New York scenery was awesome but a little disctacting for me...I was often too busy trying spot local landmarks to follow the human/ape action onscreen. And the Empire State Building; it's amazing how much taller it was than all the other buildings in Midtown at the time.
 With a couple of exceptions. When the pond slugs (or whatever they were) and the giant insects were descending on our heros after a solid 1/2 hour of being chased by several other kinds of animals, I (and some others in the audience) just had to laugh...it was just so absurd.