Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Director Report Card: Peter Jackson (2001-2005)

7. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
It’s boring. I’ve never read J. R. R. Tolken and have never been a fan. Sure, when the novels first came out, it was a unique world that had never been heard of before. But by now so much of what was new and exciting back then has been stolen and reused so much that it just isn’t anymore.

The biggest thing I dislike about this film is its lack of a sense of humor. It’s that humor that characterized so much of Jackson’s earlier films and without it, this film lacks the certain energy needed. It’s way, way too serious. And did I mention how incredibly uninteresting the characters are? This film is full of great actors and none of them can transcend the pretentiousness of the original text. Very little of this is Jackson’s fault, granted, as these are all problems I had with the original novels and if he had dared to changed something the geek gods might have rain vengeance down on him.
What is his fault is the ridiculously long run-time. I know there’s a lot of ground to cover, but did this really need to be three hours long? The final battle scene in particular drags and the film takes forever to end. And of course the worst punch line is, that’s not the end! There are still six more hours to sit through before you get any sort of closure!

Still, I’ll give credit where it’s due. The world created here is visually beautiful and probably the best realized universe seen on film in ages. The special effects are particularly flawless. Truthfully, elves and hobbits just aren’t my thing so I can’t really appreciate this film on any other level then the “Wow, that’s pretty!” one.
[Grade: C]

8. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
This one is a little better. There are big battles scenes all around and I think that’s why I enjoyed it more then part one. When the characters stop spewing that hopelessly droll fantasy speak at each other and just start stabbing things, the film actually comes close to being fun.

The film is also the debut of Gollem, the only character that is actually interesting in the entire film series. Gollem is totally fascinating and you can’t take your eyes off him when his on screen. The Academy robbed Andy Serkis of an award because of some stupid technicality but it is a wonderful performance that deserved some sort of recognition. The film is still too goddamn long and when Gollem isn’t around and somebody isn’t getting stabbed, I couldn’t care less. But still, it’s definitely a step forward.
[Grade: B]

9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit… …probably because I skipped it in theaters and only saw it on DVD, where I could fast-forward through all the boring shit. And I didn’t really miss any of the plot either which proves how bloated these films really are.

The battle scenes are as epic as you’d expect. The ring slowly consuming Frodo is actually entertaining to watch and Gollem still can do no wrong in my eyes. This film also features an honest to God conclusion which makes it all far more satisfying then the other two. (Of course, the film takes frikin’ forever to end, but still, at least it did end.) I actually found myself almost liking Sam and Frodo too, though I would never ever admit it in the presence of some Tolken humping fan boy.
[Grade: B]

10. King Kong
Jackson seems to be suffering from Sergio Leone syndrome and can’t seem to make a film less than three hours anymore, so this is a bit longer then it should be and the first act could probably have used some trimming. Still, I much prefer it to anything from the Hairy Feet trilogy.

When watched back-to-back with the original film, it actually proves to be a rather brilliant post-modern treatment of the 1933 classic. Scenes from the original are recreated here as the film-within-the-film and Jackson seems to be saying that much of the original is outdated macho pandering. Which it is, of course, but we love it anyway. And the director obviously loves it too as none of this comes off as really critical. Jackson takes a much more humanistic approach to everything, particularly the characters. Adrian Brody’s Jack Driscoll is an everyman playwright as opposed to the original’s two-fisted hero. Jack Black is great as Carl Denham and isn’t afraid to play up the character’s more bastard-like qualities.
The concept to receive the biggest overhaul is the relationship between Ann Darrows and the big monkey. There actually appears to be, if not a genuine affection between the two, at least a mutual respect. Naomi Watts redeems herself after a bunch of crappy movies and proves that she is indeed a great actress. Andy Serkis makes Kong just as memorable and lovable a character as Gollem was. The Skull Island sequences are exciting and thrilling, the dinosaur stampede being my favorite. The spider pit is pretty squirm inducing as well. And I don’t even think I need to tell you how good the special effects are.

The film has a real soul to it, however, that makes it a far more dramatically rounded feature then “Lord of the Rings” was. As Kong scales the Empire State Building and Howard Shore’s score plays, the film pulls back and makes you aware of the inevitable conclusion to all this. You realize that the story is really a heart-breaking tragedy.
[Grade: A]


Kernunrex said...

I had the opposite reaction to these 4 movies.

The Rings movies are luscious, fantasy road trip flicks.

Kong feels like Jackson's version of the Star Wars prequels. After prior success, he's too big for anyone to say "No, that's a bad idea" to him. Much as I like seeing a CGI ape fight CGI T-Rexes, the story of Kong shouldn't be 3 hours long (nearly twice that of the original).

Then again, I've never been into monkey movies too much.

Kernunrex said...

Finally got a link to you posted at my place. I used the "My Blog List" widget-thing Blogger just added, which is actually pretty nice.