Lion Bites Gorilla?

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NarniaWe're going to see the Narnia film today.

Last night, I picked up tickets and asked the usual question of the ticket seller: "Which of the four screens it's on is the biggest?" This is how I pick my showing times and a reason I like to buy tickets the day before. If I'm going to spend money on a movie, I want to see it on the biggest screen possible (or see it on a slightly smaller screen if it's digitally projected.) Her reply: "Our five biggest screen are devoted to King Kong."

Somehow, I knew that would be the answer.

But it seems that the Lion may be a bigger force than the Gorilla. News is coming out that ticket receipts for King Kong are running under expectations. Pundits are cutting the predicted gross take of Peter Jackson's latest by almost a third already. Ouch.

This doesn't surprise me, though. King Kong was never much of a story. An oversized gorilla develops a weird interspecies affinity for a blonde, gets hauled out of his native land, then runs rampant through New York. Excuse me while I yawn.

The big draw for the original release of King Kong was its groundbreaking special effects. People had never seen anything like that before. The draw for the mid-Seventies remake ran along the same lines. The problem with this latest update is that King Kong is still just an effects movie, but the kind of CGI effects we've become inured to. Yeah, he may fight three Tyrannosaurs in this one, but we've seen Jurassic Park I, II, and III already.

We live in different times, too. The World Trade Centers featured in the first Kong remake are gone. Trying to rouse some feelings for a special effects gorilla are tough to come by when New Yorkers are still finding bits of rubble on their streets.

What we have here are two stories that feature loads of CGI, but only one has a real heart for real people. Aslan and Kong may be at the center of their respective stories, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a story about the transformation of human beings, while Kong is about a gorilla with growth hormone issues and a penchant for the ladies. Did that storyline ever truly resonate with anyone? (And what about the utter lack of marquee value for the actors involved? Fine actors all, but still. Spielberg had similar issues facing War of the Worlds, but it had Tom Cruise, a fairly reliable draw.)

So I'm not surprised Kong isn't doing well. When I first heard that Jackson was remaking it, my first though was, Why? That was not the same impression I got when the Narnia films were announced. There the thought was, Cool. Now just don't screw them up. From what I'm hearing, Narnia came out okay.

Can't say the same for the big ape. Filmmakers who pronounce things like, "I loved ____________ and just had to remake it," usually get disappointed when the viewing public doesn't share that same burning desire for a remake. Peter Jackson should have known better.

5 thoughts on “Lion Bites Gorilla?

  1. Capt. Eucalyptus

    I don’t think Jackson will be disappointed. I’m sure he doesn’t worry much over BO take. THe studios on the other hand do, but 60 million for a five day opening isn’t anything to cry in your beer about.

  2. Anonymous

    Having seen both King Kong and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, I think you’re doing quite a disservice to the former. The draw with King Kong has never been about the plot itself. It’s all about the journey. The draw with King Kong is that, in all of its various incarnations, has been about stretching filmmaking itself as far as it will go. Yes, the special effects are tremendous, and again, you do a disservice by dismissing them, for the entirety of the piece is visually stunning, and the ape himself is incredible.

    The real drawing power of the movie itself is the film magic of it. By the end of the movie, the audience (if they have come in without the magic-killing cynicism that often unnecessarily kills films that exist outside the bounds of reality) identifies with the ape. The audience feels the impact of that romance between Kong and Darrow. That’s an incredible feat. There is every bit as much terror, romance, and adventure in that movie as is possible to fit into one film.

    I think it was incredible, and I think it unfair to complain about that film simply because it isn’t the Christian film du jour.

  3. Anonymous,

    My brother-in-law and I, looking for a male bonding moment, saw King Kong the day after Christmas. He and I are both 43 and neither of us sees many movies in the theater. In fact, I’ve never in my life seen two movies two weeks apart like I did Kong and Narnia. In the last three years I’ve seen perhaps seven movies in the theater, so I’m not an avid cinema-goer.

    My brother-in-law and I had the same reaction to Kong: So what? Yeah, it had some exciting scenes and Naomi Watts is pretty, but beyond that there is no greater meaning, moral, or anything else found in Kong. All it is and was is a special effects pic. I didn’t identify with the gorilla. I didn’t really identify with anyone because there isn’t much character development outside of the girl and the gorilla. And as much as I love animals, the pile of human bones outside Kong’s lair doesn’t paint him as just a big simian version of a cocker spaniel—if you know what I mean.

    Frankly, I thought the film was just there. I didn’t take anything away from it because there was nothing to take save for some variable CGI work (Kong, T-rexes—good, Brontosauruses—really bad.)

    I think that this is one reason that it’s underperforming. There’s no emotional attachment in the movie in light of 9/11. The very fact that Peter Jackson is not an American is a telling reason why he didn’t see that Americans aren’t all popcorn and Junior Mints anymore. We want our big movies to say something big about life and Kong simply doesn’t do this. The girl’s affection seems weird rather than affecting for this reason.

    I’m glad you really liked it. As for me, I give it 6 out of 10.

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