Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dance, Monkey!

So, I blathered:
[Peter Jackson is] the perfect guy to put in charge of a blockbuster: no matter how enormous the production gets, you can be assured that he's gotten the script as tight as possible and then spent just ridiculous amounts of time worrying over the exact type of chainmail the orcs are wearing, specific gross-out effects shots, etc...
Um, it's generally a good idea to watch the thing before making such bold statements. Specifically, the statement in bold, because it's completely untrue in this case. Now Jackson has made his name with a trilogy of famously overlong films, maybe they're just going to keep getting longer and longer - he's paid his dues, and who's going to fucking stop him?

Anyway, so the damn ape movie could be trimmed by half an hour and lose nothing at all. I am a bastard of an editor - except with my own stuff, obviously - and I reckon I could double that, albeit at the cost of some suspense. A lot of the secondary characters are just completely unnecessary, and so (though it pains me to say it) is Adrien Brody - especially since his character already inexplicably morphs from Geeky Playwright to Impossibly Daring Swashbuckler whenever one is called for. Jack Black carries the first hour or so, practically singlehandedly, through some pretty rushed exposition and some dialogue that clanks more than it should. Naomi Watts looks a bit lost in the early going, but more than makes up for it once the ape shows up and she has to start doing emotional scenes with a special effect.

Speaking of which, it works. I was worried at first - all the CGI involving boats is frayed around the edges, the dinosaurs (hey, when isn't it a good time for dinosaurs?) look a bit creaky - but that may have all been the equivalent of the first shot of Team America, an attempt to fake us out. The best stretches of the film are actually the ones with little or no dialogue at all, and I don't just mean that as a comment on the quality of the dialogue - the action sequences in the middle are on a par with anything I've ever seen. Also, the entire final act in New York is marvellous, except for those nagging "why does Adrien Brody's character exist?" moments.

Perhaps worth noting: Andy Serkis does double duty as Kong and one of the otherwise superfluous secondary characters, which is a nice touch. The only other film I can think of with him in the flesh, as it were, is Topsy-Turvy. (By the way, he has to win some kind of award for this. Has to. I know a digital effect isn't technically a Supporting Actor, but still.)