hollywood hues
Beauty and the beast

King Kong is just an adventure but its inordinate length works against it, writes Ervell E. Menezes

Itís all about beauty and the beast and the King Kong legend first made in 1933 and then in 1976 is back again but this time on an epic scale and when you hear the tune "Sitting on top of the world" you little suspect its significance at the end of the film but by then there is so much of entertainment one is left drained emotionally or otherwise. Three hours is indeed a long, long time.

In 1933 it was Fay Wray, in 1976 it was Jessica Lange. This time it is Naomi Watts and sheís sure to become a big star in good time for being held by the giant gorilla, atop the Empire State Building or in the jungle but for all its technical excellence the fare is clearly quantitative. The setting is apt, the Great Depression of the 1930s and actors needed jobs to fill their bellies. Enter the "saddest girl Iíve ever met" Anne Darrow (Naomi Watts) and launch her on an adventure of epic proportions.

Megalomaniacal director Carl Denham (Jack Black) takes vaudeville actress Darrow, who dreams of making it big in the filmworld, eccentric writer Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody) and a film crew by ship to Skull Island to investigate rumours that it is inhabited by prehistoric monsters.

So it is not long before (after a predictable storm at sea of course) one comes face to face with Jurassic Park monsters, pygmies and all kinds of prehistoric creatures including naturally the monster gorilla King Kong, who incidentally doesnít put in his appearance till the intermission. Why these creatures fight among themselves and how the film crew eludes a fate like death no one is able to explain, not even The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson who is given all the powers to make King Kong a visual treat and so he begins with the dinosaurs in the jungle and just when you think whatever will happen to New York and the great American dream it gets to you almost in the last quarter when even 10-year-olds in the audience seem to have had enough.

A still from King Kong
A still from King Kong

But Naomi Watts, first exhibiting a range of underwear and then cleft in her skimpy nightgown , has to fall for the gorilla. "Isnít it beautiful," she keeps repeating and the gorilla caresses her lovingly as the rest of the cast look on expectantly. For action film buffs thereís the trapeze act in the wilds and a few casualties, including the cinematographer Herbert and so they decide to complete the film and donate the money to his widow. But much water flows down the Potamac, there is a love triangle of sorts, and we come ever so slowly to the climax atop the Empire State. The planes attacking the beast look like some video games but with modern technology is thrice as easy as it was in say 1933. Poor Naomi Watts has to endure all of three hours and so has the viewer to get to the predictable end but if ever there was a quantitative entertainer it is this King Kong, more gloss than substance.

Of course director Peter Jackson tires to humanise the gorilla in a way that they did the same to Dracula and much footage is devoted to it, but in the end it is just an adventure pure and simple, whose inordinate length surely works against it. Along with the gorilla, Naomi Watts has enough to extend her acting talent to the hilt but Adrian Brody is quite wasted and Jack Blackís enthusiasm cannot make for the lack of conviction. And the fare for all its technical excellence is nothing more than a Hollywood blockbuster.

May be it serves its purpose and all of us were brought up on Hollywood escapist entertainment. But when one sees a classic like the French film Hidden (at IFFI, Goa) one clearly knows the difference. It is serious cinema as is most European cinema because it deals with life and its various nuances which seep down the mind much after the curtain comes down on the show. It is quite another experience.