Prior to our visits with relatives for the Christmas weekend, Annette and Will and I had some “must see” movie viewing to take care of: King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Here’s my version of a run-down of these flicks:
First, King Kong: You should go see this movie. Seriously. It’s really REALLY good. But two thoughts from me to you before you go:
- See the “real” King Kong first, the 1933 original that started the whole thing. Ignore the 1976 version– that’s a pretty crappy movie. Anyway, you’ll see why I suggest this homework in a second.
- For those of you with kids, take the PG-13 rating seriously. We took Will to this because, as I’ve said before, usually the kind of violence and scary stuff that shows up in these movies doesn’t phase him. I mean, we took him to the latest Harry Potter, and we took him to all of the The Lord of the Rings movies. This one scared the shit out of him, which means that we at least get a nomination for “bad parental performance in a stage or screen setting” award for the year.
Okay, with that out of the way:
Annette and I both thought that Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, the movie that he claims inspired him to become a filmmaker in the first place, was very much da bomb. Now, I have a particular soft-spot for “movies about movies/movie-making,” and this new version of King Kong, especially when compared with the original, is a particularly rich text. What is similar and/or down-right identical between this version and the original?
- Both are (ostensibly) about “nature film” filmmakers, though in Jackson’s version, the movie maker (Jack Black in the latest) is also trying to make a movie completely different from what was funded by the studio. A long story.
- There are many MANY scenes that are in both movies: the scene where Ann Darrow (aka, “beauty”) is selected by Carl Denham (the filmmaker) to be in his picture while she’s stealing apples, a lot of stuff on the boat, the theater where Kong is shown, the Empire State Building (of course!), and so many more. Which is reason #1 to do your homework and see the original first.
- There are many MANY scenes that are either interesting commentaries or interesting revisions on the original. In the Jackson remake, he’s added the role of a screen writer (this is the Adrien Brody role) and the leading man to the movie that’s being made on the ship– and, oddly, the role the leading man plays is the “first mate” of the ship that takes them to Skull Island, which, of course, is the love interest in the original movie. Do you have all that? Did you do the assigned homework here?
- What’s different? Well, the “natives” on Skull Island in the Jackson version of things are interesting. While the natives in the original are super-duper stereotypical and an example of just how little people in the U.S. in the 1930s knew about “the other,” the new natives are scary as shit. Which I guess is still kind of racist, but in a different way.
- And the biggest difference is how we’re supposed to react to Kong himself. In the original, the Fay Rey (Ann aka “beauty”) character is always terrified of Kong, and the audience is lead to believe that Kong is just nothing but trouble. When King Kong dies in the original, it’s a happy moment. In the new film, we’re supposed to feel sympathetic for Kong, the same way we’re supposed to feel sorry for apes captured from the jungle and taken to zoos. Furthermore, Naomi Watts (Ann aka “beauty” in the new movie) has a completely different relatioship with Kong. At best, Ann has a “pet-like” love for Kong; at worse, Ann has a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship that, ah, can’t work.
Anyway, go see it. It’s not just a monster/special effects movie (which, btw, was exactly what the original was). Well worth it, and certainly a big-screen experience.
As for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: eh, it was okay. Will liked it. It was no Lord of the Rings, that’s for sure. I’d recommend it as a rental.