King Kong 2005 Persona Jon Grata
January 20, 2006

“King Kong” Remake Too Long and Clichéd, but Otherwise Great

by Jonathan Chisdes

A friend of mine used an interesting metaphor in her blog today. She said that her afternoon was dragging on and on like a Peter Jackson film. I laughed, of course, because those “Lord of the Rings” movies did go on and on. Perhaps the epic length was necessary because of the subject and because the original books were so full of detail. And while much of those films were interesting, still, a lot of those battle scenes did seem to go on too long and I often found myself wishing they would end so that we could get on with the story.

By an interesting coincidence today, I happened to see Peter Jackson’s most recent film, “King Kong.” And you know what, what my friend said still goes. At three hours long, it did drag. That’s not to say there weren’t some beautiful and poignant moments—notably the scene were Kong and Ann watch the sunset over Skull Island, and the final goodbyes on top of the Empire State Building. But there were plenty of sequences that could have been scaled back or eliminated all together; they really interrupted the story-telling. Particularly a lot of the action sequences on the island.

It also seemed to me that large parts of the film were clichéd or ripped off from other movies, particularly “Jurassic Park,” “Titanic,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Starship Troopers,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” I had hoped for something a little more original.

Despite all that, though, I was still moved by it. It’s a good story with a good message about the environment and interconnectedness with all earthly creatures. Having lived with animals—and all pet owners would attest to this I think—I know that animals are people too. They may not be human, but there are often more humane than most humans. It was touching to watch the relationship develop between Ann and Kong. Also, as a former English teacher, I appreciated the references to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Also, I think it was a stroke of genius to keep it set in the 1930s, like the original. Usually when a film is remade, it’s updated to make it current; but keeping it in its original time and place—and adding a tiny bit of history at the beginning, such as soup kitchens, the last gasp of vaudeville, labor protests, and Hoovervilles—helped identify it as an iconic piece of Americana as well as explain people’s primitive reactions to Kong. Not to mention how there could be an uncharted island in the age of satellites. Plus the 1930s costumes and style gave it an exotic feel. (Oh, one small note about the 1930s. I was surprised that they were still using hand-cranked cameras back then—especially if they were synching it with sound. I thought hand-cranked film cameras had gone out in the 20s. Am I mistaken, or was that an anachronism? Maybe I’m wrong.)

Also, in the post 9/11 world, there is something quite sensitive in our collective American psyche at seeing something wildly rampage through Manhattan and leave a wake of destruction. Not that Kong represents terrorism, but I think we’re all a bit on edge watching New York being destroyed. But keeping it in the 1930s returns it to an era of innocence. Yet the reaction—to just shoot and destroy—is so contemporary. It goes right to the very heart of the very contemporary issues I wrote about recently in reference to the Milwee Middle School shooting and the Miami airport shooting. It’s a story written more than seven decades ago, yet Peter Jackson keeps it very fresh. I just wish he had cut about a quarter to a third of the film. (The right cuts, I mean.)

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