Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Poor Andy

After having the King Kong DVD for close to a year, I finally opened 'er up the other day and listened to the commentary and watched the lengthy documentary. A few thoughts:
  • I had forgotten how good the movie is - most importantly, what a real character they made Kong, and how empathetic he was. That near-final shot, when he falls off of the Empire State building, and we see him lock eyes one final time with Ann, was heart-wrenching.

In terms of the special features, a couple of things stood out:

  • There's a bit in one of the first two discs with Peter Jackson telling a story about taking Naomi Watts to meet Fay Wray. Wonderful anecdote, and Peter's enthusiasm for the project, and for the original film and its creators and stars is probably never more evident. That Wray died a month or so after that meeting (and that she, after saying she wouldn't do a cameo, whispered to Jackson, "never say never" as he left,) makes it extra-poignant.

  • There's another bit in those first two discs with Jackson, Watts, and some of the producers visiting the real Empire State Building. Very cool, especially when the guide breaks protocol and allows a few of them to the very top. The sense of vertigo is palpable.

  • In the main documentary there's a segment in which the crew recalls how they constructed their digital Manhattan. Fascinating. They apparently bought a digital map of Manhattan from a company that sells that kind of thing (including 3-D models of every building on the island), but the map was modern. So they then bought a database of info that detailed when every building in Manhattan was built. And went in and deleted every post-1933 building from their current-day map - leaving vast swaths of empty space. That they built an A.I.-infused computer program to fill by building buildings appropriate to the time, neighborhood, and location. Astonishing stuff.

  • The Empire State itself they built by hand, using the original blueprints.

  • The material on Andy Serkis' work as Kong is great. Serkis, after being told by Jackson that he couldn't go to Rwanda to study gorillas in the wild, that the insurance would never cover it, bought his own ticket and went. Lived up close and personal with gorillas for a while.

  • They went into a lot of detail on how Serkis played Kong during principal photography, so that the actors - and later, Naomi Watts in her many solo scenes with Kong - would have someone to act of of. They show very effectively, how critical Serkis' work was to Watts, and how well they fed off of each other and how much she appreciated his presence and dedication. You can really see how her remarkable performance wouldn't have been half of what it was were it not for Serkis' work opposite her. She never was acting by herself in front of the blue screen. He was always there, whether "on screen" or not.

  • Which made it seem somewhat hypocritical - and sad - that Serkis had to do all of his motion capture work by himself. In other words, after principal photography wrapped, and he went off for weeks to do all of the motion capture work, she wasn't there for him to act off of. They don't acknowledge this in the documentary, but it stuck out for me.

I get the vague sense that Kong is being forgotten in a way the Rings films aren't. It shouldn't be.

Until Whenever

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