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Just Saw [Insert Movie Title Here]...

...or how my MFA in screenwriting ruined any chance of enjoying a movie like a normal person. If I apply what I've learned to existing films, would it have made a better film?


SPOILER WARNING: Please be advised, I plan to discuss plot points in detail so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want the surprise ruined, stop here.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

King Kong

Logline: A film crew stumbles across the island home of a great ape who falls in love with their lead actress.

The Good Idea: Naomi Watts charming a computer effects gorilla.

Why it didn't work:

Okay, I'll harp on the same thing many other critics have said. It's too long. Why is it too long? There is a sequence in Act II that belabors the point: the island is dangerous and you shouldn't be on it unless you have a gorilla for a body guard. While stunning, the sequence where the bugs and dinosaurs attack the seamen doesn't add anything to the plot. The gorilla has Ann and they can't get to her.

Where it did work was creating the emotional attachment between Kong and Ann. It was set up where she dances and juggles in the opening vaudeville act and paid off when she dances and juggles for Kong. We know why she's different from all the other women he's had and what actor doesn't love an appreciative audience?

Act III raises too many unanswered questions. Why didn't Ann participate in the Kong show? Why didn't Ann participate in Jack's play, after all, Jack did kiss her while they were on the ocean and wrote the damn play for her. If her love for Kong was inevitable, what kept them apart while they were in New York? If she did love Kong and didn't love Jack then what was the intended emotional impact of having Jack with her at the end? Jack believed he was rescuing her from Kong but in actuality, he wasn't, so Jack had nothing to gain. Once she turned down being in his play, the love triangle between Kong, Jack and Ann was over and so was the dramatic tension of "Will she choose Kong or Jack?" Unfortunately, the movie ended before we could see if Jack ever figured out she didn't love him.

If King Kong is a love story at its heart (and I believe it is) then somehow, climbing the Empire State Building had to read as some kind of sacrifice Kong made to save Ann. Storywise, Kong had to sacrifice himself to save Ann from some kind of jeopardy. Instead, it played out as Kong getting away from the army's attack and Ann happened to follow him. Since Ann wasn't in any jeopardy (other than incidental), her anguish at the end reads more like, "I couldn't save him," instead of, "He did this to save me."

2 Comments:

Anonymous Guyot said...

You have some terrific insights so far.

I would love to see you sometimes post why a film worked for you, as opposed always looking at what didn't work.

Best,
Paul

January 02, 2006 2:32 PM  
Blogger Isaac Ho said...

Thanks. I'll take your advice. I forgot that proper etiquette dictates I say something positive before I say something critical.

January 03, 2006 12:53 AM  

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