Friday, December 23, 2005

A jaw-dropping Kong and a bewtiching Narnia

No outright winner in this battle of the CGI beasties



"Get your hands off my girl!" So seems to be roaring Aslan from Narnia to King Kong



I went to Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson's King King with admittedly low expectations! Given the uninteresting trailer and the notion of going gooey-eyed at an unlikely interspecies romance between an even more unlikely giant gorilla and a beaut like Naomi Watts, boy, was I looking foward to spending a miserable 3 hours in the theater! And boy, was I wrong!

Kong is a rip-roaring adventure movie that gets every thing just right without ever feeling overdone or cliched! Just when you feel how awkward its going to be to watch anymore of the tender moments between Ann Darrow (Watts) and King Kong, we cut over to a sensational action sequence. Just when we can take no more of that darn Skull Island, back to New York we go! Ann is no slouch either; unlike most annoying movie ingenues who enjoy walking into danger and paralyzing with fear just when they need to get the hell away, she makes all the right moves, keeping her head in tense situations and hesistating for just the right amount of time when playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) arrives to rescue her from Kong! Bravo!

The story is pretty much the same as the 1933 original: fim crew goes to unknown island; lead actress captured by natives and laid out as sacrifice for big gorilla who instead falls in love, gets captured and shipped to New York, escapes, climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and gets killed by airforce planes! Jackson fills the gaps with mind-boggling special effects, including a sequence in a insect-filled pit that is the stuff of your worst nightmares! The best CGI is of course Kong himself, animated in much the same way as Gollum in LOTR was and using the same actor, Andy Serkis, for the process. The movie, however, wouldn't have been remotely the same without the services of Naomi Watts who seems to be able to bring such conviction to any role she plays (watch her in Mulholland Drive and 21 Grams) that its a wonder she's not drowning in Oscars (she does have an outside chance for this role)!


While Kong tries to overwhelm us with its technical wizardry, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sort of nuzzles up to us using the charm of four British children, who are whisked off to the magical kingdom of Narnia located on the other side of the titular wardrobe. Narnia is ruled over by the evil White Witch, Jadis (a creepy Tilda Swanton) who has doomed the region to permanent winter with no Christmas (kinda how I feel about the weather here. Brrrrr!). The Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, discover that it is their destiny to liberate Narnia from the witch's clutches (little rhyme there!) and in this quest they are helped by various magical creatures that include fauns, centaurs, talking beavers and most importantly, the all-knowing Lion king, Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson).

Similar to King Kong, Aslan is also completely CGI, though, however unfair it sounds, nowhere near the same level. While the latter is all but flawless, he is no match for the finesse of Kong, his worn, grizzled exterior, his pot belly and most of all his tragically human facial expressions. This is further exacerbated by the poor pacing in the middle portion of Narnia where not enough time is spent in developing the personality of Aslan; I remember more about the White Witch to be honest!

Where Narnia triumphs though is in the utter lovability of the children especially Georgie Henley as Lucy, the youngest of the Pevensies. There is a scene she has with a faun, Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), when she first enters Narnia, that hits a pitch perfect note of sweetness. William Moseley plays Peter, the eldest, with admirable earnestness as he tries to shoulder a burden he feels too young for. Then there is Edmund (Skandar Keynes), the bad egg in the family, who with his big eyes gives an exceptionally intense perforrmance as the traitor who betrays his family for some Turkish delight! All solid stuff!

Narnia ran into some controversy before its release here because of its none-too-implicit Christian subtext, so intended by the author of the books on which the movie is based, C.S. Lewis. The short answer to those who find this worrysome is this: The movie has as much Christianity in it as the book has and it will overwhelm the movie only if you want it to!

2 Comments:

Blogger Anantha said...

dude, make sure you go watch Munich. I think it is a well made movie, though a bit long but very well shot.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Hey, I just caught Munich a couple of days back. Really engrossing movie!

8:52 AM  

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