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There is little doubt in my mind after sitting through the three hours and seven minutes of the motion picture "King Kong" that Peter Jackson doesn't know the meaning of the word 'smaller'. Everything he does is big...not just big...enormous. Tell the man that something can't be done, and he will hire someone to develop the technology to get it done. That is the kind of director that Peter Jackson is, akin to other great filmmakers like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. He is a master storyteller who can direct a film filled with eye-popping special effects, but still manage to craft and soft and intricate love story. That is a difficult enough task when you're directing two actors, much less an actress and a CGI-gorilla. "King Kong" is a sweeping adventure, a love story, and very much one of the greatest cinematic accomplishments we have yet to see as an audience. This is nothing like the Peter Jackson from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - he obviously loves the story of "King Kong" and that is plainly visible in every single sequence of the film, from the scene where Ann entertains Kong by juggling rocks, to the scene where Kong and Ann go skating over the frozen pond in the middle of Central Park. These scenes are soft and fragile, as if they could break just as easily as the ice in that frozen pond. Peter Jackson's has taken a classic tale and turned it into something truly remarkable - a sweet and innocent love story between a woman who always seems to be left, and Kong, who has never found anyone to ease his loneliness.
The story centers around director Carl Denham (Jack Black), who has come in possession of a map that will supposedly lead him to the mysterious and, as of yet, undiscovered Skull Island, where he hopes to film his next picture. After the studio backs out of the project, along with his leading lady, Carl must find a beautiful and vexing woman to take her place. He finds this in Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), a vaudeville actress who just happens to catch Carl's eye on a busy street one day. He hires her on the spot and away they go. He tricks to the writer of his film, playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) into tagging along, and he and Ann immediately find chemistry on the ship. Thomas Krestchmann co-stars as Captain Englehorn, professional animal capturer and expert navigator. Colin Hanks is Preston, Carl's assistant. Once the crew reach Skull Island, they must man their guns when Ann is captured by the natives and offered as sacrifice to Kong, who first treats Ann like a conquest, and then later as something much more. The first part of the film deals with the trip to the island, the second part with the attempts to find Ann, and the third part with Kong's arrival in New York City, as the supposed 'eighth wonder of the world'. The only relationship that matters throughout this entire picture is the relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong. Theirs is the love story that makes everything a little brighter, even amidst dinosaur tramplings and frightening natives with red eye and poles through their lips. Kong is a savage beast, but once he finds something - or in this case, someone - he loves, he will stop at nothing to protect them. That is the heart of "King Kong", the most ambitious motion picture of the year, or any year.
Some critics of this film had hailed it as 'a series of amazing sequences strung together by bits and pieces of cheese'. That statement could not be more correct, or more incorrect. This is a film of amazing sequences. The five minutes or so of Kong defending Ann against the T-Rex's is probably the most jaw-dropping scene of all-time - strike that, it is the most jaw-dropping scene of all-time, hands down. The scene with Driscoll and Denham being attacked by the onslaught of insects and grub worms is also astonishing to behold - a true instance where a scene is equalled in its cheese only by the sheer horror of the circumstances. So, yes, there is cheese. There is a lot of cheese in this film. Jack Black was cast as Carl Denham partly so he could bring a lighthearted sentiment to the film, which he does perfectly. For fifty percent of the film, we see Jack Black as Carl Denham, the obsessed and slightly maniacal director. For the other fifty percent of the film, we see Jack Black as...well...Jack Black. When he utters the last words in the film, "It was beauty that killed the beast", it is slightly difficult to take that with much seriousness, in that Black seems to drop any but of character he might have had to deliver that line as the lead singer of Tenacious D. But, that is not all of the cheese - from the corny little voice overs that seem to use as many adjectives as could possibly fit into a sentence, to Jamie Bell's character, Jimmy, who never seems to do anything but get into mischief and give us that one scene where one of the main characters loses someone they love and has to run into the arms of someone who would not normally comfort them. But, that is the cheese you expect from an adventure film, and that is a decent chunk of what this film is.
The star of this film is Kong, played by the great Andy Serkis, who also brought as Golem from the "Lord of the Rings" films. Kong becomes a living, breathing extension of this film - I never once thought of him as a CGI-gorilla. His facial expressions are so real, and his interactions with Ann are so deep and meaningful - it's hard to believe you could get this choked up over something like the relationship between a woman and an enormous beast, but if I could weep over Tom Hanks losing his volleyball in "Cast Away", this is not that much of a stretch. As Ann Darrow, Naomi Watts is everything she needs to be and more. This woman deserves an Oscar for this performance, without a doubt. While everyone else had the chance to spend the majority of their time acting with other men and women, she spent most of her acting time with a green screen that would eventually become Kong. She is able to find surprising depth to Ann Darrow, something that Fay Wray was not allowed to find, and that Jessica Lange just couldn't muster. Not to mention, in terms of beauty, there are few who would be able to surpass Naomi Watts in that department. As Carl Denham, Jack Black strikes the right chord between cheese and intensity that works for most of the film. He does lighten the mood of the film, and that is needed during some of the more intense scenes, especially when you consider how many of the crew actually die before his eyes. It was as if, the more people that died, the more obsessed he became in making sure they didn't die for nothing. Adrien Brody also made an interesting hero as Jack Driscoll, who just can't seem to compete with Kong, even though he tries on numerous occasions. If I had to choose, I'd probably pick Adrien Brody.
Some people will question the idea of a woman like Ann Darrow falling in love with a beast like Kong, but it makes perfect sense to me. She is a woman who has been abandoned her entire life. She meets Kong, who she can automatically tell will never leave her, and always protect her. Of course she is drawn to that - the protection and the security. Watch the pain in her eyes as she watches Kong slide down off the Empire State Building at the end of the film. Amazing. For that scene alone, she deserves a Best Actress nomination. "King Kong" surprised me in that I knew I would probably love it, but enjoyed it so much more. The three hours and seven minutes flew by, for the most part, though Jackson could have probably snipped twenty minutes or so from the scenes on Skull Island. "King Kong" is not your average adventure film. It is a love story, with the backdrop of an adventure film. It is, however, the greatest adaptation of the story, to date, and I don't see why there would be any need for another. I absolutely fell in love with this film, and Peter Jackson's obvious passion for the material. When a director cares this much about what he is directing, of course the end product is going to be amazing. "King Kong" was one of the finest films of the year, and certainly the most visually pleasing. It packs one hell of a roar.
- added 12/15/2005, 07:02 PM
I saw this today in the theatres. It's on par
with the original. So, for true fans, they know
it's a worthwhile watch. Being an enormous fan of
the 1933 original, I gave this one a chance, and
it was excellent.
- added 12/16/2005, 12:38 PM
This film just pays homage after homage to the
'33 version. I love it. Little nods like the
orchestra in NY playing the theme from the
original. The only thing I didn't like about this
movie was how much he dragged shit out. The
aforementioned T-Rex fight was a LOT longer then 5
minutes, and by the end of it you're thinking "Ok,
just kill them and move on already."
- added 04/17/2006, 06:10 AM
Speaking of homages, the small nod to Dead Alive
(the rat monkey on the ship) was just excellent.
I agree with the review above for the most part,
although I wasn't completely satisfied with the
film and I'm leaning towards something more along
the lines of 7 or 8/10.
- added 12/13/2006, 12:01 AM
This was, without a doubt, one of the BEST
remakes of all time. Peter Jackson must have
inhuman patience for artistic vision. He didn't
let his own views slur the general outline (and
basic story) of the original. Guess that's what
happens when you remake something that you love.
- added 10/07/2008, 02:55 PM
I guess that I must just be showing my age
here... but I found the 3-way T-Rex battle
ridiculous and the Apatosaurus stampede idiotic.
Just because you CAN... doesn't necessarily mean
that you SHOULD. Perhaps I am just less enchanted
with the recent "bigger is better" trend
in film CGI than most of you out there...
Those two scenes, along with the unnecessarily
gratuitous "bug fight" sequence ( Cooper
cut that scene from the original script for a
reason, folks) only served to make clear how
modern day filmmakers are almost completely
lacking in restraint.
plot complications and INCREDIBLY poor casting
(Adrian Brody as Driscoll.... ugg... he's supposed
to be the ship's first mate... a mountain of a
man, not some whiny, spindly playwright! And
don't get me started on Jack Black as Denham...)
only serve to make this film a simple special
Sure... Kong looked
great... but that was the only part of the movie
that met with expectations as far as I and many
steadfast fans of the original film are concerned.
This was a hollow visual upgrade to a beloved
film... the only real contribution that this
effort provided to the legendary story was an
inflated budget and a sackful of over-the-top
Call me a cynic, but
this remake left me cold... it had none of the
charm of the original and even less sense to it
(if that is even possible). Maybe I'm just
disappointed that so much attention was paid to
the special effects portion of the film, leaving
the story proper to languish into basic transition
periods between action set-pieces.
I won't bother to quibble over minor plot points
or acting chops here... all I'm saying is that to
me, this Kong felt as insubstantial as the
computer effects that rendered him.
give this misstep 6/10... 7/10 if you have a
thirst for bombastic CGI and a high tolerance for