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The UnPopular Opinion: Peter Jackson's King Kong

Sep. 19, 2012by: Alejandro Stepenberg

Immortals new UnPopular Opinion header

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

If I could have lived a thousand years ago, or even three hundred years ago, I would have been an explorer.  I've always been etranced by the idea of discovery, and of wondering at that which I had discovered, and then entrancing audiences in turn with tales of my wondrous discoveries.  Provided I didn't die of dysentary first.  But we no longer live in a world where that sort of discovery is possible - the epic journeys into uncharted lands are gone.  There are, as has been said, no blank spots on the map left to discover for someone like me who isn't a fan of far-below-freezing temperatures.

Which is why Peter Jackson's KING KONG was such a revelation to me.  It captured that sense of mystery and adventure after which I chased as a child, and it transported me to a lost world in a way only matched thus far by those exciting adventure writers of old: Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burroughs.  They managed to entrance my imagination just as I hope one day to do for others, and Peter Jackson more than ably continued their tradition with his film that was as much remake as it was original creation.  And therein lies what I find to be both the greatest strength and the greatest fault of the film.  But more on that in a moment.

Unpopular Opinion King Kong 1

"There is still some mystery left in this world, and we can all have a piece of it for the price of an admission ticket."

Fundamentally, KING KONG works beautifully as a sprawling adventure.  For over forty minutes the tension builds and the tone shifts as we drift further and further from one wonder (that of a New York City from days gone by) and closer and closer to another (that of an island estranged from both the characters' world and our own).  Our own hopes and fears have grown along with those expressed by the characters, meaning that when we arrive at the island it is nearly unimaginable that it can meet our inflated expectations.  And yet it does, with a lost civilzation and a dinosaurs and various other megafauna accosting our heroes at every turn.  Even with the preparation the trailer gave me in regards to the surprises lying in wait upon the island, I still found myself gleefully (and fearfully) discovering each element of the island as though it was for the first time. 

And not only is there an abundance of surprises in terms of the creatures that populate this landscape - I found myself equally startled and intrigued by the way they existed.  Jackson took my expectations and gave me a final product that slightly twisted and strongly improved on what I had in my head going in, overlaying the creatures with fantastic design/tech work and filling them with life and character.  Wonky Apatosaurus stampede aside.  And Kong himself of course cannot be argued with - Andy Serkis' performance worked in perfect cohesion with the skill of Weta's artists to create a truly memorable creature.  Character.  Performance.  All of the above and more.  Whatever you choose to call it, it was genius, and if anything it covers everyone and everything else in the film in a Kong-sized shadow.  As with The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT, whenever Kong is off screen I find myself chomping at the bit for him to come back.

Unpopular Opinion King Kong 2

"The beast looked upon the face of beauty. Beauty stayed his hand, and from that moment he was as one dead."

And perhaps that too is indicative of one of the film's greater problems - Kong himself is specific and well defined, whereas it might be said the film itself wanders and/or is a bit overstuffed.  It's as though Jackson crammed in every idea his team had, forcing the story to serve the world rather than the other way around.  And while this criticism may seem hypocritical in relation to what I've just said, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive.  I love that the adventure sprawls the way it does, but I also recognize that there are some issues with KING KONG's structure and the way Jackson elected to fill the story out.  There are definitely places I would trim things, especially in the action and chase sequences that generally go on longer than is necessary, but with this sort of story I'm also willing to make let it slide because I personally would rather have too much of this kind of adventure.  One of the great powers of cinema is its ability to transport us and transform us, and considering the material that made up the bulk of my childhood fantasies I'll ever be appreciative that Peter Jackson chose to include all that he did.

While we're talking about criticism, this seems as good a time as any to hearken back to the observation I made earlier - the similarity between Peter Jackson's KING KONG and the adventure novels I read as a kid.  Books are built to be picked up and put down, they can take days to read, and are built in such a way so as to constantly keep the reader hooked over a longer period of time.  And because they have that extended period of time in which to develop all of the plot and character threads that movies lack, books (especially the adventure kind) have action scenes or notable events occuring on a fairly consistent basis.  And so: Jackson's take on KONG is structured more like an adventure novel rather than an adventure movie, meaning that all of the creatures and events and action sequences come at such an unforgivingly constant pace that it borders on overwhelming.  Some such as myself enjoy it nonetheless, accepting the stretches Jackson makes equally with our attention and adrenaline in return for getting lost in a vast adventure.  Others don't dig it so much, wishing instead for something more traditionally cinematic, and that's very much okay too.

Unpopular Opinion King Kong 3

"I'm finished."
"How did you think this would end, Carl?"

With Jackson and WETA involved the design of KING KONG is universally superb, with little touches present everywhere you look.  Jack Black turns in what is actually quite a fun larger-than-life performance (though I loathe hs early line about "crappers"), matched by a performance of heartbreaking desperation and hopeful longing from Naomi Watts.  The supporting cast is solid as well, doing the best they can with characters who receive a relatively one-dimensional treatment in favor of Jackson's main interest of Skull Island.  James Newton Howard's score is serviceable without being overly memorable, though in the same way as with THE DARK KNIGHT it is his work in the smaller moments that stands out the most (with Kong and Ann in Central Park being a personal favorite).

I don't think a review of KING KONG can go without mentioning the very blunt "Heart of Darkness" referencing that goes down in the film -  I personally take issue with the trope of people randomly being able to quote long passages from books/poems, but I still think it was a damn cool idea to try and implement. The commentary on humanity's monstrosity and the unwitting destruction of the magical kingdom is very front and center with KING KONG, and I think its admirable that Jackson found it worth his time and effort to make such a statement on top of the wild adventure already at hand.

Could KING KONG have been a tighter movie? Absolutely.  Is it intriguing and engaging enough overall to make up for Jackson's moments of indulgence? I think so.  While I would argue that it is undeniably a step down from any one of the LORD OF THE RINGS films, it nonetheless is a massive accomplishment and a testament to a side of cinema that I haven't often seen on display in my lifetime.  And if I am ever fortunate enough to meet Peter Jackson, I can guarentee you that I will thank him profusely for giving me the chance to lose myself in an adventure epic of this scale.

Unpopular Opinion King Kong blue screen scene

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to ajstepenberg@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you wish, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

Extra Tidbit: KING KONG was still a step up from Jackson's dreadfully silly adaptation of THE LOVELY BONES. Tucci was phenomenal, and the score was well worth a listen, but the rest of it? Ugh was that movie rough.
Source: JoBlo.com

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4:08AM on 10/02/2012

a little bit...

over ambitious, just too drawn out.
over ambitious, just too drawn out.
Your Reply:



1:22AM on 09/21/2012
I am glad you greatly enjoyed this movie (I for one find it to be more enjoyable than Jackson's LOTR films), but how is this an 'Unpopular' opinion? I have not met a single person that did not enjoy it on some level, even if they have faults with it.
I am glad you greatly enjoyed this movie (I for one find it to be more enjoyable than Jackson's LOTR films), but how is this an 'Unpopular' opinion? I have not met a single person that did not enjoy it on some level, even if they have faults with it.
Your Reply:



+6
3:54AM on 09/20/2012

No Wayyyyy ????

How is this film not liked?

I love this film, for anyone who is on the fence or, hasn't watched in a while...
View it again
How is this film not liked?

I love this film, for anyone who is on the fence or, hasn't watched in a while...
View it again
Your Reply:



1:03AM on 09/20/2012
This is one of those painfully underrated movies that I'm pretty sure is only viewed negatively by people who never bothered to watch it.
This is one of those painfully underrated movies that I'm pretty sure is only viewed negatively by people who never bothered to watch it.
Your Reply:



+4
11:09PM on 09/19/2012
I'm pretty sure this is a popular opinion. I've definitely seen some hate toward this film in the past. But when you weigh it out, I would say that far more people enjoyed it. I did as well. It might have been long, and the return to New York seemed rushed, but all in all it was a fun time at the movies.
I'm pretty sure this is a popular opinion. I've definitely seen some hate toward this film in the past. But when you weigh it out, I would say that far more people enjoyed it. I did as well. It might have been long, and the return to New York seemed rushed, but all in all it was a fun time at the movies.
Your Reply:



9:46PM on 09/19/2012

Good choice for this column

I was a big fan of this movie when I saw it in the theaters, and have watched it once a year ever since. Too long? Maybe so, but still damn good entertainment. Naomi Watts is absolutely stunning and Kong himself becomes much more than a monster, but a character you actually root for and feel for, despite knowing how it all ends. I had no problem with Black, Brody, or even Chandler in this, either. A great adventure, very underrated in my opinion.
I was a big fan of this movie when I saw it in the theaters, and have watched it once a year ever since. Too long? Maybe so, but still damn good entertainment. Naomi Watts is absolutely stunning and Kong himself becomes much more than a monster, but a character you actually root for and feel for, despite knowing how it all ends. I had no problem with Black, Brody, or even Chandler in this, either. A great adventure, very underrated in my opinion.
Your Reply:



9:42PM on 09/19/2012

Unpopular?

I thought this movie was considered to be good by a lot of people. I happen to love it.
I thought this movie was considered to be good by a lot of people. I happen to love it.
Your Reply:



9:35PM on 09/19/2012

Meh

It was ok. Nothing special in my honest opinion. I'll take the original masterpiece any day over this version.

Also, how would this be an unpopular opinion, if the movie overall received praise.
It was ok. Nothing special in my honest opinion. I'll take the original masterpiece any day over this version.

Also, how would this be an unpopular opinion, if the movie overall received praise.
Your Reply:



+1
8:18PM on 09/19/2012
I'm with you. This is one movie I really enjoyed. The meandering from one form of adventure to another never bothered me and I reveled in the things I was seeing on screen. It was a very long movie, one reason I rarely revisit it, but what I saw in theaters when I watched it was great.
I'm with you. This is one movie I really enjoyed. The meandering from one form of adventure to another never bothered me and I reveled in the things I was seeing on screen. It was a very long movie, one reason I rarely revisit it, but what I saw in theaters when I watched it was great.
Your Reply:



7:31PM on 09/19/2012

Popular opinion

In most regards King Kong was liked by critics and fans and I couldn't disagree with you more on The Lovely Bones, that was a beautiful movie.
In most regards King Kong was liked by critics and fans and I couldn't disagree with you more on The Lovely Bones, that was a beautiful movie.
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5:59PM on 09/19/2012

It's a very good movie

easily better than the Bridges 80s version. The Lovely Bones was very underrated as well.
easily better than the Bridges 80s version. The Lovely Bones was very underrated as well.
Your Reply:



+3
3:51PM on 09/19/2012

Agreed. Good movie...way too long

Editing is Jackson's weak point and he all but suffocated what should have been a widely popular and profitable movie. The story, f/x, casting and performances are all right on, but it needs to lose about 45 minutes.
Editing is Jackson's weak point and he all but suffocated what should have been a widely popular and profitable movie. The story, f/x, casting and performances are all right on, but it needs to lose about 45 minutes.
Your Reply:



-2
3:49PM on 09/19/2012
Very bad movie in my opinion. Far to long and boring, I actually fell asleep during it. Also besides Watts, the cast was terrible.
Very bad movie in my opinion. Far to long and boring, I actually fell asleep during it. Also besides Watts, the cast was terrible.
Your Reply:



3:25PM on 09/19/2012
The f/x were good & Naomi Watts was good & looked so hot in the Fay Wray role, but the movie was simply too long & it felt like they took forever before Kong was finally revealed. Also I didn't like the fact that pretty much every male character was a complete asshole, especially Jack Black trying to play it straight. If a good hour was trimmed,then yes it would have been a much better film. Also I was surprised on how violent the movie was, which i do love violence but not in this case.
The f/x were good & Naomi Watts was good & looked so hot in the Fay Wray role, but the movie was simply too long & it felt like they took forever before Kong was finally revealed. Also I didn't like the fact that pretty much every male character was a complete asshole, especially Jack Black trying to play it straight. If a good hour was trimmed,then yes it would have been a much better film. Also I was surprised on how violent the movie was, which i do love violence but not in this case.
Your Reply:



12:24PM on 09/19/2012
It has its share of flaws but I love this movie. And Naomi Watts is a Goddess.
It has its share of flaws but I love this movie. And Naomi Watts is a Goddess.
Your Reply:



12:13PM on 09/19/2012
The greatest thing I enjoyed was Naomi Watts' performance!
The greatest thing I enjoyed was Naomi Watts' performance!
Your Reply:



12:00PM on 09/19/2012
I saw this 3 times in theaters. I loved it, although a lot could have been trimmed to make it flow better. I liked the comparison to an adventure novel rather than being just a story. It hits the nail on the head.
I saw this 3 times in theaters. I loved it, although a lot could have been trimmed to make it flow better. I liked the comparison to an adventure novel rather than being just a story. It hits the nail on the head.
Your Reply:



11:39AM on 09/19/2012

King Kong was awesome.

King Kong was a freaking GREAT movie. What makes it great besides the acting and the special effects. The story telling the iconic images and scenes. There are just epic moments beyond the WOW moments. It was a faithful retelling of the original film, with vast improvements in every way. One epic scene that always sticks in my head is when they first get to Skull Island and happen across the village and it starts to rain and the little native girl is just standing there. Just a creepy,
King Kong was a freaking GREAT movie. What makes it great besides the acting and the special effects. The story telling the iconic images and scenes. There are just epic moments beyond the WOW moments. It was a faithful retelling of the original film, with vast improvements in every way. One epic scene that always sticks in my head is when they first get to Skull Island and happen across the village and it starts to rain and the little native girl is just standing there. Just a creepy, tension filled scene with a washed out color palette and a sense of desperation and fear, any viewer would feel that strangeness, that "out of your element" danger. And that carries through the film. The film makers, the sailors, the actress all out of their element, and then later Kong in NYC is out of his element. A film of exotic worlds and how the characters react to them. And ultimately the love story between Kong and Ann Darrow rings true.
Your Reply:



10:30AM on 09/19/2012
I rather enjoy King Kong, but you have to WAAAAY space out your viewings. No more than once a year.

But its a great 'amusement park ride' movie like Avatar or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Movies that are driven by visual adventure for all to enjoy, practically every scene a new action sequence.
I rather enjoy King Kong, but you have to WAAAAY space out your viewings. No more than once a year.

But its a great 'amusement park ride' movie like Avatar or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Movies that are driven by visual adventure for all to enjoy, practically every scene a new action sequence.
Your Reply:



10:19AM on 09/19/2012

KING KONG is

b etter than any of the "Lord of the rings" movies. There, I said it.
Maybe THAT'S an unpopular opinion.
b etter than any of the "Lord of the rings" movies. There, I said it.
Maybe THAT'S an unpopular opinion.
Your Reply:



-24
10:08AM on 09/19/2012

Bored to death

Like most of Jackson's movies that he makes today, it was over long and very bloated. Jack Black was woefully miscast. Adrian Brody is still that retarded kid from The Village. Naomi Watts is the only one who looks likes she's trying. The CGI took me out of the film many times. Especially toward the end. I'll take King Kong 76 FTW. Good article though.
Like most of Jackson's movies that he makes today, it was over long and very bloated. Jack Black was woefully miscast. Adrian Brody is still that retarded kid from The Village. Naomi Watts is the only one who looks likes she's trying. The CGI took me out of the film many times. Especially toward the end. I'll take King Kong 76 FTW. Good article though.
Your Reply:



9:34PM on 09/19/2012
WTF?!? People give you so many thumbs down for expressing your opinion. Well sir, I'll have to give you a thumbs up for being honest!
WTF?!? People give you so many thumbs down for expressing your opinion. Well sir, I'll have to give you a thumbs up for being honest!
9:42AM on 09/19/2012
Never knew it was supposed to be hated.
Never knew it was supposed to be hated.
Your Reply:



9:28AM on 09/19/2012

Agree with this article.

It was a nice read.
Sometimes I cannot understand the hate towards this movie. It was beautiful, packed and visually stunning,
The Extended version made me love even more. If you´re still skeptical about watching this, catch the extended version, it´s the way to go.
It was a nice read.
Sometimes I cannot understand the hate towards this movie. It was beautiful, packed and visually stunning,
The Extended version made me love even more. If you´re still skeptical about watching this, catch the extended version, it´s the way to go.
Your Reply:



3:02PM on 09/19/2012
there was an extended version?? how long was that compared to the already-long theatrical version?
there was an extended version?? how long was that compared to the already-long theatrical version?
9:27AM on 09/20/2012
It adds a little more than 12 minutes worth of footage. Some scenes are just plain awesome like the Piranhadon attack. There's arundown in this site explaining what scenes didn't make it to the final cut:
[link]
It adds a little more than 12 minutes worth of footage. Some scenes are just plain awesome like the Piranhadon attack. There's arundown in this site explaining what scenes didn't make it to the final cut:
[link]
9:27AM on 09/19/2012

Kong

I have 1 problem with Peter Jackson's King Kong and it's a borderline fatal one. Instead of having the surviving crew of the Venture just up and disappear in the New York section at the end, Kong should have sought revenge against the Venture and the crew. Imagine the fury when he sees the Venture and him absolutely going ballistic in the New York harbor. The crew of the Venture desperately try to cast off before Kong completely destroys or sinks the ship. This is where Ann Darrow appears
I have 1 problem with Peter Jackson's King Kong and it's a borderline fatal one. Instead of having the surviving crew of the Venture just up and disappear in the New York section at the end, Kong should have sought revenge against the Venture and the crew. Imagine the fury when he sees the Venture and him absolutely going ballistic in the New York harbor. The crew of the Venture desperately try to cast off before Kong completely destroys or sinks the ship. This is where Ann Darrow appears and successfully calms Kong down, appealing to his better side. The ragged Venture limps out of harbor, before taking on water and sinking in shallow water under the watchful eye of Lady Liberty.
Your Reply:



8:39AM on 09/19/2012

Alejandro, it was getting rather usual to disagree with you on the past, but NOT THIS TIME

I wholeheartedly completely agree with you on all points!! Have to say, I was a bit skeptical when saw an unpopular opinion about KING KONG (2005), because it was that type of movie which garned mostly positive reviews when released (84% on rottentomatoes) and earned a healthy boxoffice, but for some reason over the years a steady backlash had started (is it just because its a remake of a classic?).....Boy, am I glad its a (mostly) POSITIVE review! And I also like how you balanced (unlike some
I wholeheartedly completely agree with you on all points!! Have to say, I was a bit skeptical when saw an unpopular opinion about KING KONG (2005), because it was that type of movie which garned mostly positive reviews when released (84% on rottentomatoes) and earned a healthy boxoffice, but for some reason over the years a steady backlash had started (is it just because its a remake of a classic?).....Boy, am I glad its a (mostly) POSITIVE review! And I also like how you balanced (unlike some previous opinions) the positive points with those shortcomings that are unavoidable when remaking an established classic with big budget and equally try to match both the artistic integrities & crowd-pleasing boxoffice expectations. In my case, I LOVED this film from the very first time I watched 7 years ago, and over the years my appreciation for this film (and its many little inspired touches) only gotten HIGHER, with every rewatching. This is the way a remake should be made, by keeping intact the love and respect for the original, but update & revisionize the world that could not've been made 70-80 years ago.....Which unfortunately from countless remakes and reboots of today, only a verrry few can actually represent and therefore validate their existance. Anyway, great read Dude!

P.S. I would add another immortal adventure author with those you listed: SIR HENRY RIDER HAGGARD (King Solomon's Mines, She etc)....His novels about hunter Allan Quatermain and about the eternal mysteries & beauties of African continent forever remade my childhood imaginations.
Your Reply:



8:22AM on 09/19/2012
It was as good a remake as we were ever likely to get - I really enjoyed it at the cinema, and have seen it a few times since, but I maintain that the scene with the pit full of giant bugs is possibly one of the more messed up scenes ever to make it into a major hollywood film. Aspects of the film are pretty extreme for the rating it had. I don't consider it to be overly long, though, as the film is consistently enjoyable throughout.
It was as good a remake as we were ever likely to get - I really enjoyed it at the cinema, and have seen it a few times since, but I maintain that the scene with the pit full of giant bugs is possibly one of the more messed up scenes ever to make it into a major hollywood film. Aspects of the film are pretty extreme for the rating it had. I don't consider it to be overly long, though, as the film is consistently enjoyable throughout.
Your Reply:



7:51AM on 09/19/2012
I do enjoy the movie but it is WAY to fucking long. It takes over an hour just to get to the fucking island let alone see Kong and that's ridiculous. I appreciate that Jackson likes to flesh out characters as much as possible but there needs to be a limit. In the end it was the amazing performance of the insanely beautiful Naomi Watts and the incredible talent of WETA and Andy Serkis that made the film as epic as it is. Like I said though, could have easily cut maybe 45 minutes or so.

I
I do enjoy the movie but it is WAY to fucking long. It takes over an hour just to get to the fucking island let alone see Kong and that's ridiculous. I appreciate that Jackson likes to flesh out characters as much as possible but there needs to be a limit. In the end it was the amazing performance of the insanely beautiful Naomi Watts and the incredible talent of WETA and Andy Serkis that made the film as epic as it is. Like I said though, could have easily cut maybe 45 minutes or so.

I still like the original better though. ;)
Your Reply:



+10
7:06AM on 09/19/2012
I actually quite like this film and, in my opinion, the best performance of Jack Black. Who knows he can do dramatic role? The movie "King Kong" becomes alive when he broke lose and havoc ensued.
I actually quite like this film and, in my opinion, the best performance of Jack Black. Who knows he can do dramatic role? The movie "King Kong" becomes alive when he broke lose and havoc ensued.
Your Reply: