King Kong -What went wrong
Having watched at least three versions (including the 1933 black and white original) of King Kong and laughed over them, I decided I should watch Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong, if only to keep up with the cinematic regression of the great ape. Of course, the fact that elite box tickets in Sree were coming free helped.
I was forewarned to go after the interval, if I wanted to get the action and the ape. However, I quite enjoy period depictions on screen and I am among the group that swears by newsreel clips. The first half is cliched, nevertheless delightful. My companions though, who came to see the ape, went to sleep setting the alarm for an hour later. A tad lengthy, I must admit.
When King Kong did come up, give Jackson credit, he was the more believable version of the fantastic monster that moviedom created. And perhaps, most human. An old bag, greying and wheezy, but with a lot of fight left in him, I liked this guy the best. After all, if the bugger has been around since 1933, he should be an old bag, greying and wheezy, nevermind willing suspension of disbelief.
King Kong might have well be called King Kitsch, considering Jackson has not missed any opportunity to put every prehistoric predator ever known to man in his movie. I could identify the dinos, the drones and the wild bats, but there were a lot more molluscs, arthopods and sci-fi characters that are either killed by Kong or by the humans. These humans are part of a ship's crew and a movie crew that land up in a ghastly isle, inhabitated by prehistoric (?) tribes, King Kong and all creatures great and small. Kong, as we know, falls in love with the lead lady (An angelic-looking Naomi Watts) and dies, fighting to keep her, atop the Empire State Building.
What's different? Clearly the SFX is a class apart, particularly the scene where sailor-boy Jimmy narrowly misses falling off a cliff, pursued by dinos. Most of the humour is meant to be unlike the other versions where is it not meant to be. Rather endearing are the scenes where the former-vaudeville actress, Watts, tries to amuse the petulant great ape. Jackson, who has co-written the screenplay must be commended for the excellent characterisation of Carl Denham, the ne'er- say-die-entrepreneur-moviemaker.
But, there are parts of the movie that drag: the battle against the forces of nature is protracted and exasperatingly Tamil-cinema like. Though the humour is clever and intended, there are indeed parts of the movie that make you laugh without actually meaning to; sometimes the kitsch is so heavy you cannot but howl. Denham's closing punchline, "It was beauty that killed the beast" especially, makes you laugh hours later. It is likely to go down as the cheesiest closing line Hollywood has heard in a decade.
Somehow, the cumulative effect of tackiness, kitsh and cheese makes you want to say at the end of the movie, "King Kong, Ding Dong" as tears roll down your eyes and run down your laughing lips! If you don't like that you could say Sing Song or Ping Pong - just make sure it rhymes!