Saturday, February 10, 2007

Staring into the eyes of the beast

Subject: Cinema
Well, actually, I wish Peter Jackson's "King Kong" were as dramatic as that.

But despite the construct of lame contrivances that dragged this attempt-at-epic on for hours, there were still some rather well-produced moments. And most all of those were because all the real work was done with the eyes.

In particular, Kong's eyes were outstanding. And no doubt, seeing as millions were spent finessing them. I remember reading that the eyes were the focus (ha ha) of the animators' attention, and it really did pay off. They could throw all the mo-cap in the world at a giant hairy CG gorilla, but the life and suspension of disbelief totally relied on two shiny-wet little orbs stuck in his forehead.

And the only redeeming parts of the rest of the live, non-CG cast were the interaction vis-a-vis their eyes as well. So the "eyes" have it, then.

On the whole, though, the movie was just a drawn-out psuedo-extravaganza where you could just watch the $$ being drained in every frame. Granted, that led to a number of really cool and grand shots that looked quite stunning in HDTV, the best culminating in the depression-era Empire State Building view of the surrounding skyline at sunrise. Indeed, the use of CG and FX work has reached quite a pinnacle. But that's all offset by some of the totally dorky contrived sequences like the big dinosaur stampede, the dual-Tyrannosaur battle-royal scene that just wouldn't end, or the super-icky giant cockaroach scene that just wouldn't end either.

And then all of it was framed in a rather obvious tie-in to the grand days of Hollywood, vs. the crass mechanics of Hollywood producers & moneymen, vs. the cynical attempt at a self-depricating spoof of the shameless self-interested masquerade of someone in the biz, like Mr. Jackson himself. Jack Black is obviously cast because of his faux-Orson-Wellesian portrayal, but ultimately just symbolizes the parade of simplistic symbolism that each character, well, symbolizes. The script overall seems to be looking to score culture points more than provide any sort of depth.

Does that make it some sort of clever homage to the Golden Era Hollywood it sort of lampoons? Well, probably. I mean, it is a "King Kong" remake, for crying out loud! Of course Peter Jackson is going to give it a big nod. But by the time this current iteration of Big Hollywood got done with it, it sure seems a bit thin and lacking any sort of punch. That is, if Jackson meant for it to have any "punch" in the first place.

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