Friday, December 16, 2005

A disappointing start for King Kong


http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/051216c.php is reporting the following,
"Whilst it shattered industry records in many foreign territories for its opening day, Universal Pictures' "King Kong" took in just $9.8 million in its debut on the domestic front despite strong critical praise and very heavy promotion.

The Peter Jackson directed epic was not surprisingly ranked No. 1 in every market it opened in, whilst $9.8 million is nothing to be shy about. Nevertheless among Wednesday openers that places it a disappointing 21st on the list. It has raised a few eyebrows when compared to other titles like the less enthusiastically received "War of the Worlds" with which took $21.3 million or the less promoted "Batman Begins" which scored $15.1 million on their opening Wednesdays this year. The first of Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films, the weakest opener in the series, still managed twice that amount on its opening Wednesday.

Just as curious, but in a different way is the tone of reviews. The film has scored amongst the best reviews of the year, yet reaction is surprisingly sharply divided upon closer examination. Some of the older more stalwart critics who've been doing the job for years in major print publications have emphatically embraced the picture, a surprise considering they're usually the first who don't normally click to mainstream blockbuster fantasies. On the filpside a lot of major online critics, people who sometimes get dismissed for being far too kind to films of this type, have been quite mixed or only mildly positive. Complaints also run along the same lines, the most common citing the film's bloated length with sequences far too drawn out and/or pandering to "Jackson's self indulgence".

How the film will fare this weekend remains to be seen, though the soft Wednesday does ensure this beast won't be smashing much in the way of records or "saving the box-office" as pundits were hoping. Nevertheless good word of mouth should ensure healthy business through the holiday season."

18 comments:

JPX said...

Some Kong trivia:

• When Jack Black's film producer Carl Denham learns that RKO hired an actress (named "Fay," as in original Kong star Wray) away from him, he gripes, "Cooper — I should have known." Merian C. Cooper, the co-director of the first Kong, was the head of RKO studios before and after World War II.

• Among the cages stored below the deck of the Venture, the steamer that sails to Skull Island, is one labeled "Sumatran rat monkey." It's a reference to the creature whose bite causes a plague of zombies in Jackson's 1992 horror spoof Braindead (aka Dead Alive).

• The cheesy movie dialogue spoken by actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and leading man Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler) during a scene being shot aboard the Venture is actual cheesy movie dialogue from the first Kong.

• After breaking the jaw of a V. rex (a relative of the T. rex), Kong flops it open and shut, just like he does in the 1933 version. Other repeated scenes: Ann steals an apple; Denham gives his speech that begins, "We're millionaires. I'll share it with all of you"; and he also recites the fake Arabian proverb -"And the prophet said, 'And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty. And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead.' "

• Several original Kong props from Jackson's collection can be found around the ship, including a native shield and spears mounted on the wall.

• Designers made sure that the aboriginal Skull Island natives, though vicious, were more sensitively portrayed this time. But a pre-PC jungle tribe straight out of the first Kong, complete with hairy ape shrugs and coconut bras, dances to Max Steiner's old score during the gorilla's Broadway debut.

• Cooper and co-director Ernest D. Schoedsack were the pilots who took down Kong during the 1933 climax. Similarly, Jackson is a gunner and master effects artist Rick Baker, who wore the Kong suit in the 1976 remake, is his pilot. Says Jackson, "I thought it was really symbolic that Rick gets to shoot Kong." Director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) is another gunner.

• An advertising sign for Universal Pictures, the studio behind this version of Kong, can be spied in Times Square. Archival photos of New York City, circa 1933, showed a promo for Columbia Pictures in that spot. "We did try to make it Columbia," Jackson says. "They wanted to be paid a huge amount of money. So we went with Universal," which let him use a sign for free.

Octopunk said...

Man, that's too bad about the slow numbers out of the gate. I wonder if it's that people don't want to do a three-hour movie on a weeknight.

And I continue to misunderstand why Jackson's indulgences are being criticized by the fanboys. Every longer-than-usual scene just means more good stuff. Really good stuff. I wish Lucas had bloated out the space battle in Sith so that I felt as winded as I felt after the T-rex fight.

Is this just people thinking they're sophisticated b/c they're tearing something down, like I feel happened to the Matrix sequels?

Octopunk said...

I spotted the Fay reference (it's pretty easy), the Sumatran Rat Monkey box (also pretty easy) and I remembered enough from the last time I saw the original to spot the jaw flapping bit.

Another story element they imported: Ann escapes when a pteranodon attackes Kong in the first one; a similar aerial threat is involved in the new one.

Oh man, was that movie good. I can't wait to see it again. It'll clean up over the holidays.

Jordan said...

Hey Octopunk, you can see more of that sequence on the Sith DVD.

JPX said...

Jordan, I have the Sith DVD and I don't believe that anything has been added to that scene (unless you're referring to the Grevious stuff).

JPX said...

Octopunk, I know what you mean about all the criticism Jackson is getting. More and more people just like to dislike stuff because it seems to be the cool thing to do. It's like the Star Wars and Matrix haters, I just don't get it.

Jordan said...

JPX, I'm very loosely defining "opening battle" to mean "the entire movie up until Obi-Wan says 'Another happy landing.'"

So, by this logic, the fuel tank sequence and the Grievous stuff counts.

Sorry for arguing like a weasel :)

JPX said...

Jordan, I was soooooooo disappointed that Lucas didn't bother to "finish" that fuel cell scene. It's actually a bit surprising given that he finished the waterfall sequence on the Episode I DVD. I liked the Yoda coda though.

Jordan said...

JPX, agreed.

Did you catch the part of the commentary in which John Knoll (super genius, whose brother Thomas Knoll is inventor and lead developer of Photoshop) explains that Lucas was impressed with ILM's work on Pearl Harbor and asked that those personnel be deployed on the Battle of Coruscant?

One of the ten best opening shots of all time, by the way. Up there with Touch of Evil, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Star Wars IV etc. (but NOT the odious The Player opening).

JPX said...

You know, I've never seen Pearl Harbor but I've heard that the opening is amazing. Did you happen to catch see on one of the Sith documentaries that they've gone back to Episode 1 and replaced the puppet Yoda with a CG Yoda? It's a very quick, subtle thing and they don't directly point it out, but I wonder if Lucas is planning some Star Wars megaset in the future with further tweaking? I still want my Biggs hanging out with Luke footage!

Jordan said...

I heard somewhere that they "officially" won't replace Oz's Yoda with CGI in Empire/Jedi, but definitely in Episode I (where for some reason the puppet Yoda sucked bigtime).

I'm of two minds with the revisions. I admit I'm kind of into what he's doing. I like "real" Sidious in DVD Empire, particularly since I like the way the new dialogue enhances the overall 6-part story.

As Octopunk will tell you, I'm tremendously impressed with the narrative structure and elegance of the completed I-VI story; so much so that I'm willing to overlook far more of the first two movies' shortcomings than Octopunk is.

Jordan said...

By the way I meant the SITH opening was that good, not the Pearl Harbor opening. I didn't see Pearl Harbor.

JPX said...

Jordan, yeah, I'm with you on the whole revisions thing, I don't broach it with Octopunk because then I'm subject to a torrent of vitriolic! I don't mind revisions that improve the FX or certain narrative aspects (e.g., replacing the old emperor with the new one).

Oh, I thought you were referring to Pearl Harbor. The opening of Sith is simply amazing - I've watched it many times on my DVD (frame by frame even!).

Jordan said...

jpx, yeah, me too. You know about the kitchen sink hitting the proto-stardestroyer, right?

I love that Anakin initiates the barrel roll right before they plunge over the edge of the stardestroyer and straight down into the battle. He can't stop spinning. "Come on! Come on!" I imagine him muttering under his breath. Pure Jedi adrenaline.

JPX said...

I've heard about the kitchen sink but I've never spotted it. There's also supposed to be a Blade Runner spinner somewhere in there. Man, there was nothing like seeing that opening on the big screen! I actually saw AOTC on IMAX and it was an amazing experience. It really makes you appreciate all the detail they cram into these scenes.

Octopunk said...

They erased my favorite Dewback!

Jordan said...

The one with the wooden stick controlling its mouth?

"Hello, Jedediah."
"Hello, Charles. So, we're speaking?"
"Speaking? Yes, of course we're speaking. You're fired."
---Citizen Kane

Jordan said...

JPX, not to mention the John Williams martial drums and the sheer genius of re-tooling the "two suns over Tatooine" theme into a 3/4 tempo with horn filigrees.

In a series called STAR WARS, it's absolutely necessary that at least one of the movies start like that, and it makes sense that it's episode III, not VI.

I love the sensation of the twenty-year jump forward into episode IV; your first thought would be, "Oh my GOD, what's happened to the galaxy? This is worse than early Soviet Russia or halfway through the great depression."

Okay, I'll shut up now