Lion Bites Gorilla?


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.