Sunday, January 15, 2006

What's wrong with Kong (it's too damn long)

Enough already. Peter Jackson's King Kong is not a masterpiece. Or a classic. It's not even a very good film. It's an entertaining 90 minute popcorn movie inflated to a monstrous 3 hours by a director too in love with his subject to edit for his audience. Not that a lengthy running time is in itself a crime - Downfall warranted every one of its 156 minutes - but Jackson's mantra whilst editing (or rather, not editing) Kong appears to have been 'Why show something once if you can show it three times?'

Maybe its because I saw it around the same time as Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit, which struck me as an infinitely more nuanced piece of filmmaking. Weighing in at a slender 85 minutes (vs. Kong's 187 minutes), Wallace & Gromit is a masterclass in cinematic economy, where every frame is made to count, brimming with a level of detail which demands repeat viewings (I find it hard to imagine Nick Park okaying the ropy CGI on display in Kong's Brontosaurus chase). Wallace & Gromit also delivers a more compelling narrative arc and three-dimensional characters you can engage with. Much has been made of the emotion conveyed by Kong's facial expressions, but for my money Gromit achieves a far greater range with his plasticine mono-brow.

The harsh reality when it comes to big screen blockbusters is that size does matter. By stuffing Kong until it was twice its original size, Jackson was hoping for the cinematic equivalent of Fois Gras. Unfortunately he's wound up with a bloated turkey of a film, which tests both the patience and posterial circulation of its audience.


Anonymous said...

I neither agree with the sentiment nor the spelling! I thought it was nicely timed, and I generally think films are too short. The reason the new W&G (not that I've seen it and on your reco I will!) is 85 mins is ... because it's stop-motion animation! Every frame takes ages to set up, and there's no overnight rendering or automatic inter-frame interpolation! I think the film is nicely paced if one accepts that images themselves have a right to be viewed for their own sakes: all that lush island foliage needed the time that was dedicated to it. You were really there, not just following the mad antics of the protagonists. And by the end you have a sense of all the characters (apart from god-awful Brody's character), which is very proper. In particular Kong of course: the mo-cap of Serkis is really terrificly effective, he really does launch from petulance to curiosity to extreme violence to protective concern in a blink. Ropey and foie gras. And I thought 'Downfall', there was an overrated film. We shall have to work on these disagreements!

Dan Taylor said...

Thanks for your comments john m. From various conversations I've had, more people would agree with your assessment of Kong, with the notable exception of Charlie Brooker. I'm afraid it's a fair cop re. foie gras, although according to you can spell ropey/ropy either way. I guess it would be churlish of me to pick up on your spelling of terrifically... ;-)