Disclaimer: I haven't seen King Kong, nor do I want to. Will I actually see it, though? The answer is: yes, probably.
A friend from graduate school--let's call him Chris--had some of the strongest opinions of anyone I have known, about movies. And one of those opinions was his low regard for the big-studio Hollywood movie. Yet, paradoxically, he was the first guy to see the latest cliched blockbuster at the only cineplex in seedy Providence, RI. He would, admittedly, come back and diss the movie in discussions with me. However, after hearing that Naomi Watts was slated to star in King Kong, I'm sure he contemplated suicide at the betrayal. Naomi, the light of his life, sold out to the man!
Chris introduced Naomi Watts to me in graduate school; it was David Lynch's excellent 2001 cult noir thriller Mulholland Dr. I was so taken by her performance, that I still think of the real Naomi to be like her character from the movie: Betty/Diane, a delicate flower that needed to be sheltered from this cruel world, lest it break its own neck in a strong gale. Since then, I had enjoyed her performances in suitably 'weighty' dramas: We Don't Live Here Anymore, 21 Grams, and... yes, even I Heart Huckabees. I felt proud of my Naomi when the critics appreciated her in these roles.
When I first heard of the new King Kong movie, my reaction, while a little less drastic than my friend's, was an unhappy one as well. It is heartbreaking to see Naomi involved in a movie with the unlikely premise of doomed love between a gorilla and a woman. A 10-story tall gorilla, at that, for C(h)ris-sake! Sure, former horror movie-maker Peter Jackson intended it a "loving" homage to the 1933 "classic". But to call it "exalted" movie making, as the usually dependable A.O. Scott of the New York Times does, is mistaken. One should recognize it for what it is: an oversized, overpriced remake of an old movie, which will turn into a money-making franchise just in time for the holidays, aided by big marketing blitzkreig (Take cover! Here come the Kong cereal boxes (those again!), Kong the video game, Kong the candy bar (already out: Crunch'N Win Kong), Kong you-name-it). Oh, wait--I also forgot the other convenience of releasing the movie now: its Oscar-season! Wonderful.
Its "milk the cow for all its worth" all over again. What is disappointing is to see Naomi being involved in such un-inventive enterprise, which, I feel, is beneath her abilities. Here's wishing that Naomi returns to making intelligent cinema again. Now, excuse me, for I have to look for tickets to the next showing of King Kong at my local cineplex.