King Kong

King Kong ★★★★

"It's money and adventure and fame! It's the thrill of a lifetime and a long sea voyage that starts at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning!"

I promised my friend Greg that I would watch his favorite film one day, and with a trip to see the new monster movie tomorrow night, that day is today. The iconic and unquantifiably influential original 1933 King Kong never seemed like the kind of movie that interested me as a younger person, or as a burgeoning cinephile in the last decade. But now that I see its power and ability to captivate, I can commend this awesomely audacious movie which feels both of its time and years ahead of it too.

I'm actually very tired from a long work week, and I can't possibly write better than Greg does about this film so I won't try. Sorry. Sometimes Friday nights are rough for me. But a few thoughts on what truly was my first watch of this creature feature.

I really liked listening to an overture! More movies should have that again. The score overall is just wonderful. Maybe the second best aspect of the film.

I'm not so sure I can praise the acting, which like a lot of 1930s films still feels very stilted and unnatural. Basically all the male actors especially are wooden and goofy. Only Fay Wray makes a real impression, as she's tremendous in what had to be a supremely taxing -- physically and emotionally -- professional ordeal.

That's a very slow first act. Thank goodness it's saved by the landing on Skull Island. But man, this barely kept my attention for the first half hour. Then briefly it slips back into a forced romance. Ugh.

I'm not even going to comment on the sexism and racism. It's pretty bad, but, look, this is 1933. One could argue this is actually an anti-colonial film, which draws sympathy for Kong. Duh, a million people have written that before me. I guess I just wish the caricatures of the imperialist White invaders weren't so silly, and the portrayal of the Natives wasn't so forcibly negative. Anyway. It's there. That's the world of 88 years ago.

The technical elements of this film are nothing short of astonishing. I'm not sure if I'd ever seen that fight between Kong and T-Rex before in its entirety. Holy cow. And with a brutal finishing move! How did they do that? Yeah sure, he changes sizes a couple times depending on the location -- one time he looks like 20 feet tall, then later easily two or three times that -- but who cares? What it took to "animate" that, and combine it with real footage for at least some kind of blended realism, is just incredible. That sound technology had only been around for five or six years, with the effort it must have been to perfect that element too, only makes what's achieved here all the more amazing.

Anyway, sorry, not a real review, but trust me that you should just read what Greg has written and that's far better than what I could muster. But I liked this a whole lot, way more than I thought I would! Goodness, can you imagine seeing this in a theatre all those years ago? Would have blown your mind.

Friend who wrote a better review than me: Greg Davidson.

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