Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Movie Review: King Kong & Munich

I liked King Kong. I know, I know, it's been done before and everyone knows the story: The ape did it. It's three hours long. And the lamest complaint of all: It's not making as much money as a blockbuster should. I don't care. I like King Kong.

So what if everyone knows the plot? It's a good plot. I like the plot. And heck, how many movies have a decent plot any more? At three hours, it could be a little long but it was enjoyable all the way. Maybe I would have tightened it up a little but I can't say that there was anything I would want cut.

I was most impressed by the special effects, as you might guess. The city shots of New York City in the 1930s are fabulous. Later, when Kong goes ape in the city, well, you just need to see that on the big screen. A little screen won't do.

The natives on Skull Island were a very creepy, savage, and wacked out group, which is to say, perfect. I don't understand why they would have black people portray inhabitants of a South Pacific island, though. They should have been brown Polynesians. Oh well, this isn't a documentary, after all.

Kong's rampage around Skull Island fighting dinosaurs and rescue parties is fabulous fare, a movie by itself. So is his rampage through the Big Apple. The new computer graphics make it worthwhile to retell Kong's story. He really looks alive, not like some dope in a gorilla suit or a claymation model.

My only complaint is the casting. Naomi Watts in the Fay Wray role doesn't do it for me. She's pretty enough but I don't see myself climbing the Empire State Building for her. Jack Black needs a harder edge and more maturity to convincingly play a scam artist movie director.

But that said, you just gotta go see this on the big screen.

Munich was worth seeing, too, though it would work on the small screen just as well as it did on the big screen. It is a story derived from the aftermath of the Munich Massacre perpetrated by the PLO in which terrorists killed members of the Israeli Olympic team. The movie covers the Israeli response to the attack, which was to hunt down the terrorists involved and kill them. That sounds reasonable, though director Spielberg tries to spin it as futile.

I have a bone to pick on accuracy. Spielberg shows the Munich terrorists infiltrating the Olympic village carrying their weapons in gym bags. That is false. The Palestinian terrorists picked up their guns from the East German Olympic team, which smuggled them into the village. The movie depicts American broadcasters giving away the German police attempting to creep up on the terrorists, holed up in the Israeli apartment, when in fact it was East German television which acted as a sentry for the terrorists, broadcasting the outside view as planned so that the terrorists could see it on TV.

The point of the movie was to demonstrate the futility of fighting the terrorists, I suppose, as it portrays such fighting as an endless tit for tat of bloody violence. Spielberg has said outside the movie that you should talk yourself to death before fighting back. It's not a very convincing argument. Perhaps there are opponents with whom that would work, but the Palestinians don't seem like one of them. When your adversary wants you dead, your people dead, and your state dead that doesn't leave much margin for negotiation. Such talk can store up trouble for the future, as in the case with Hitler, while an earlier resort to war could pop the bubble before the hostilities get out of hand.

Still, it was a pretty satisfying movie to watch, although I dimly remember seeing a very similar lower budget movie about the same subject years ago.