King of cinema in 2005

Okay, so a new movie review for a film that's been out for a while isn't the greatest thing in the world. Well, the review isn't exactly new--I wrote it several weeks ago--but I couldn't have posted it earlier because I only created my blog today. Besides, it is only the beginning of 2006, and it wouldn't hurt for me to comment on what I think was the best film of 2005. Read on...

KING KONG (2005)

Even four days before King Kong opened, I had no interest in seeing the movie. The trailers completely failed to engage my interest. As an independent filmmaker (albeit, a fairly inexperienced one), I can’t watch movies without analyzing them to death. Very rarely do I come across a film that I consider both expertly created and thoroughly engaging. The hype surrounding King Kong failed to hype me up at all. But as I started hearing one rave review after another, and in the process learning a little more of the story (I’ve never seen any of the previous Kong flicks), I became intrigued.

Let me see if I can sum up my response to the film: Peter Jackson is the greatest cinematic storyteller of our time. (Hyperbole? Not in the least.) I really didn’t believe he could create something on par with Lord of the Rings...but he may have done just that.

Granted, King Kong has its faults. The setup was a little too long (though not by the gargantuan proportions claimed by others) and suffered--though only slightly--from a pretentious self-importance, which made a few things a little too hokey. Also, a couple plot elements (including the bug scene) could have been jettisoned. Nevertheless, as pure moviemaking spectacle, I can think of few movies in filmmaking history that have delivered a solidly entertaining story like this one.

As an action/adventure film, I don’t know if anything is its equal. The sequence with the stampeding brontosaurs is quite thrilling, to put it mildly. A lot of people have complained to me that it is entirely unrealistic--even campy--but I think they're missing the point. Of course it defies logic (in several ways), but the execution of the sequence is what makes it amazing, in spite of the implausabilities. I also remember reading a review that said the T-rex fight scene was one of the best action scenes ever filmed. I thought, “There’s no way. It’s a couple of CGI characters fighting [which, I found out, was actually 4 CGI characters]. How involving can that be?” Well, it may be the greatest action scene I have ever seen. “Tour de force” doesn’t begin to describe it. This action scene goes on for quite some time and left me breathless. The climactic sequence on the Empire State Building was masterfully crafted as well. Glorious, beautiful, and tragic.

Talking about glorious and beautiful, the CGI work in this film has set a new standard. Heck, it raised the bar so high, it’ll take years for anyone to match it, much less surpass it. If I remember what I read correctly, the budget for King Kong was only fifty million dollars more than that of The Chronicles of Narnia, but it looks like they spent four times as much money on the film! I thought Aslan looked great (which he did), but Kong looks so real. The dinosaurs weren’t as impressive, but what Jackson did with them was more than impressive.

Granted, with me hyping up the CGI, you’d think the movie would lack heart. Not so. I deplore films with visual spectacle and little-to-no story. Peter Jackson, unlike a Star Wars producer who will remain nameless, knows how to implement visual effects that advance the story, not just make it look more flashy. True, I would like to have seen more interaction between Kong and Ann. But even as it stands, the relationship that develops between these two pivotal characters is highly effective. One could even argue that the best parts of the movie are the few quiet scenes with just Kong and Ann. These scenes bring tears to the eyes (or, at least to mine).

The emotional impact of the movie is greatly enhanced by James Newton Howard’s score. I’m truly sorry for Howard Shore (whose own score for the film was rejected during the eleventh hour), but at the same time I must say JNH did a phenomenal job with his replacement score. The action music is intense and the main themes are sweeping and heartfelt. On the occasions when they are used, the choir and/or soloists pack a real emotional punch. I got this film score for Christmas and I still haven't listened to it enough.

I’ve already seen it twice and am planning on at least one more viewing before the film arrives on DVD. This is, by far, the best movie I have seen in the last couple years. Descriptions like “revolutionary,” “paradigm shifting,” “masterpiece,” and “instant classic” are too often used, but I would say they are very appropriate for Peter Jackson and his newest labor of love.