Curious Kong

One very high tech, fat and dumb monkey.

By Steve Burgess 19 Dec 2005 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess is a freelance writer and the author of Who Killed Mom?, published in 2011 by Greystone Books.

Born in Norwalk Ohio, home of the famous virus, Steve was raised in Regina, SK, and Brandon, MB. He writes a regular column for The Tyee, often reviewing films but also, sometimes, detailing his hilarious world travels for Tyee readers. Steve is a former CBC Radio host and has won two National Magazine Awards. He has also won three Western Magazine Awards.

Reporting Beat: Travel, pop culture, politics, cobbling, knife sharpening, furnace repair.

Twitter: @steveburgess1

Website: Steve Burgess

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Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong is a technological marvel. You'll be astounded at the dumb things a filmmaker can do and at how long he takes to do them.

Here are the good things about the new King Kong movie: the monkey and Jack Black.

Kong is a wonder, all right. This is computer imagery at its best, with Andy Serkis as the man inside the CGI monkey suit. Kong has a face that can stop a train, and does. You will wait a very long time before he appears, and once he shows up, you'll be sorry when he's away. He's a great visual creation.

The larger-than-life Jack Black, as realized by human actor Jack Black, is fun too. Playing the film director who serially promises the proceeds of his movie to the widow of every fresh victim, Black is the perfect casting choice.


And now the bad news. There's lots of it and lots of time to take it in. Peter Jackson's King Kong is yet another tedious example of the cinematic dog that licks its balls because it can.

Kong is not the biggest, baddest, thumpingest brute in this movie. That would be Jackson himself, with honourable mention going to the soundtrack. Jackson does not convey emotion -- he wields it like a giant monkey paw, pummeling you into jelly. Does the capture of Kong invoke pathos? Hell, no -- it inspires Pathos! It's the Eighth Pathetic Wonder of the World!

Does the New York reunion of Kong and his girlfriend Naomi Watts summon tenderness? By Jesus, we're not stopping there. Cue the Kong-sized violins! Bring out Watts for a long, backlit runway stroll that would fit neatly into any Celine Dion video, followed by, quite possibly, the dumbest scene you will see in any movie this year or the next or the next -- Kong and his best gal go ice-skating. Ice-sliding at least, sailing around Central Park while the ice somehow withstands the weight of both Kong and, apparently, a 300-piece orchestra. If they had set the scene indoors it would have been a remake of Rocky, with Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire on their first date. Stallone didn't wear skates either. I smell Oscar here.

Blank cheque

By the time that howler arrives, we've already been treated to a series of dumb sequences, all of them done for the same reason that old dog licks its balls. A scene where Watts, Kong and a couple of T. Rexes have a trapeze fight while suspended in a tangle of vines will be thrilling for those who demand only the silliest and most ludicrous action that modern Hollywood can provide. A daring escape achieved via giant vampire bat makes Adam West's old Batman series look like docudrama by comparison.

There are movies that would benefit from the luxury of a three-hour running time, even some action movies (I thought Spielberg's War of the Worlds suffered from an overly abrupt ending). But three hours for this thing? This is what happens when directors get blank cheques. The sea voyage to Skull Island seems to happen in real time.

Remember those 60's albums where bands were freed from the restrictions of pop radio and could stretch out with eight-minute guitar solos? Some good records got made back then. So did "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida." I'll take "Da Doo Ron Ron," by the Crystals any day, all two-and-a-half minutes of it. And if I want to see King Kong, I'll watch the 1933 original in all its efficient glory. For that matter, I'll watch the 1976 version before sitting through Jackson's bloated beast again. I only wish the airplanes had made another pass to finish off Watts and Adrian Brody and, especially, Peter Jackson. They shot the wrong monkey.

When not watching hominoidea, Steve Burgess is The Tyee's entertainment critic.  [Tyee]

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