January 5th, 2006


A Gratuitous Smattering, Plus Kong!

* For those in the market for a Damn Fine Mage scenario, World of Darkness: Chicago is out now.

* And my final 2005 Out of the Box column is up now, featuring the Twelve Days of the Bigass Game Review Pile.

* And a couple weeks or so ago, I saw Peter Jackson's King Kong.

Short version: If this had been the first movie called King Kong I ever saw, I would call it the greatest movie of all time.

Longer version: I re-watched the real Kong on the wonderful new DVD a couple days before seeing Jackson's take, and that was probably unfair to Peter Jackson. I now know almost precisely how maliszew felt about Jackson's Lord of the Rings -- Peter Jackson has made a wonderful, glorious epic that almost completely misses the point of the original source material. Because, you see, Fay Wray doesn't love Kong. Kong loves Fay, but Fay thinks Kong is a horrible monster. And, what with him being a 25-foot gorilla, she has a point. Hence, the story arc is pure tragedy; a gifted theater type of my acquaintance compares Kong vrai to King Lear. (And yes, I know Cordelia still loves Lear; the point is that Lear's arc is pure tragedy -- from king rejected to beast raging on the heath to dead. Same as Kong.) Jackson's Kong is Romeo & Juliet, two crazy kids from opposite sides of the evolutionary tracks who just can't make it work. Nothing wrong with Romeo & Juliet, but it's not Kong. Maybe it's just that making a movie about the heartbreak of rejection isn't what geeks want to do for two years.

This misunderstanding causes Jackson to get other things wrong, such as the biplanes. Which is annoying, because Jackson's biplane scene is absolutely ecstatic filmmaking. But in Kong vrai, Kong rescues Fay Wray from a pteranodon, and then fights off the rest of the flock. Then, he fights off the biplanes because he thinks he's rescuing her -- he can't see them any other way. In Kong J., Brody and Naomi make too much noise and wake up the orc-bats (what's up with that, anyhow -- what's wrong with pteranodons?) and Kong fights them because, well, they're orc-bats. The orc-bats thing brings up another bunch of problems I had with Peter Jackson's version -- why change Jack Driscoll from a blue-collar hero to a gutless nebbish like Adrien Brody? And whatever happened to that feral stowaway kid's origin and why did we care? And since when does Peter Jackson hate himself, or at least the Carl Denham side of himself? And why do you remake a film from 1933 and make it more racist? But man, that biplane scene rocked. And the Kong vs. triple-threat T.-rex? Best Monster Fight Evar. And Andy Serkis was brilliant, and the simple, massive physicality of Kong was perfect. Naomi Watts is easy on the eyes. And the loving quotes from the original were all masterfully done, if weirdly ironic.

I guess it just goes to show that you can love something with all your heart and just not understand it at all. But of course, we'd already learned that. From King Kong. In 1933.

* People may also be interested in Howard Waldrop's view of the movie. He likes Romeo & Juliet.