But it's far from just good casting that King Kong has going for it. In its three hours and seven minute running time (which cost two-hundred-seven million dollars to make) we're given a spectacular and thrilling adventure worthy of the name KONG! At core, this is a 1930's movie made with modern tools and technology, and because of that, the same allowances must be made for this one. Oh, there's no denying that it's one incredible saga, and a treat for the eyes, in short, an incredible movie! However, Jackson (with co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) do pump in quite a lot of that familiar '30's melodrama and add in some unnecessary supporting characters who end up about as well developed as a can of over-exposed film. There is also a bit of the old meandering story that doesn't always stay as focused as it needs to.
But you know what? The exact same things can be said about the 1933 original King Kong! If it's not quite "perfect", it is definitely superb, and a brilliant experiment in storytelling and pathos. Of course, it would have to be! We all know the story, regardless of how many times we've seen the original, or if we've seen it at all. To take such a classic movie and present it to us again, intact, and still leave us surprised, moved and excited... now that's a feat! Jackson seems to have asked questions that he wanted to answer, and successfully does so by filling in a few of the plot points that the original didn't give us. While it's true that sometimes he goes a little overboard with this, the greatness here is how exactly Jackson recreates certain scenes from the original, utilizes imagery and motifs from the original, along with just a tad of the 1976 remake and even a theme or two from the 1949 Mighty Joe Young!
Our story begins as Carl Denham (Jack Black, in a rare, mostly dramatic turn) launches an elaborate scheme to regain his heavyweight status as a film director. Finding Ann Darrow, literally on the street, he meets a girl dreaming of starring in a play written by Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody)! Quicker than you can say "Ben Kenobi! Where is he?", Ann is off on the road to Skull Island with Denham and Driscoll himself, courtesy of one creepy hand-scrawled map, and the rickety ship, owned by Captain Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann)!
Just as the 1976 remake falls apart when our Giant Gorilla shows up, it takes our leading man King Kong's appearance to really get this 2005 film happening. From the first moments, Kong's Island is eerier than a Hockey Stadium rest room, especially when looking at its human denizens. Jackson is only too happy to show us what an isolated colony of humanity might look like after hundreds of years of a religion based on Kong! Gone are the poorly depicted African natives of the original, and in come the scariest group of racially indistinct nightmares you'll ever hope not to see! They're creepier than a Texas Cannibal Family, okay? Needless to say such a wild bunch wouldn't have any qualms about kidnapping Ann's can and sacrificing her to their silverback god!
What follows, from the time Kong appears with a screaming growl, is a trek through the land that time forgot with every manner of horror, from giant spiders, to tentacled creatures, to Dick Cheney, to dinosaurs! This being Peter Jackson's dream project, he loads the entire middle act with every fan-boy dream come true, upping the ante of the fantastic exponentially with each scene. Jackson, in fact, seems so interested in one-upping the originals that it almost becomes too much and the escalating thrills, coupled with shock after shock after shock almost overwhelm the story itself.
However, what this movie does that none other like it has managed to succeed at, is show why Ann Darrow is so special and what it is about her that sooths the savage beast that is Kong. What's more, we finally get to see for sure why exactly Ann herself becomes endeared back to Kong! What exactly about this giant monster gives poor Miss Darrow the biggest case of Stockholm Syndrome since Patty Hearst! Possibly most importantly, the audience is given real reasons why we should care about this mighty beast instead of just feeling sorry for him in a world he never made. While he never becomes quite the "sweet boy" that Mighty Joe Young was, we are given some touching moments surrounding Ann and Kong that change our entire focus on the brute we see in the beginning. Never is this more true than during the New York finale!
Again, knowing the ending of this film makes it all the more necessary for Wingnut Pictures to get this right, and believe me, they do. While it's true that you've seen this story before, you've most certainly never seen this story this way before! It's worth the wait, and its weight in gold!
The special effects and computer animation here are both amazing and almost completely perfect. While occasionally not quite seamless, it's incredible to see such diversity in texture, expression, and yes, even the wind in Kong's fur. With so much live action meshing with the digitized animatics, a tip of the fedora must be offered here. There's a great and glorious attention to detail and a consistency that is unmatched by most films. As I said about the original, the effects here are more than enough to suspend our disbelief for a beautiful time! You might not ever forget you're watching CGI, but with the emotion we get from all those ones and zeroes, you're most certainly going to appreciate what can be done. Hell, Kong's pre-vis model Andy Serkis does such a good job of humanizing our giant ape that I half expected him to grab Naomi Watts and scream out "MYYYY PREEECIIIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUS!" with wide, creepy eyes!
Still, I can't help but think that while they were at it they might have shown us just how in the name of P.T. Barnum they got this behemoth onto that boat! Every version skips that, man!
Even considering the nit-picky items that appear here and there, King Kong is a thrilling and triumphant adventure in the tradition of Raiders of the Lost Ark! Sure there are moments that go beyond unlikely, yeah some of the characters make decidedly uncharacteristic choices to further the plot and of course there are those times you might find yourself saying "Yeah, Right!" But look, folks, if you're in for nitpicking the "reality" of things like this to death, you have no business going to see a movie about a giant ape, now do you?
Four and One Half Stars out of Five for Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong! Make no mistake, this is an entertaining and well made movie! Also, make no mistake, there are some incredibly scary moments and a village of frightening savages that make the Uruk Hai look like Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem band! Think twice if you've got a weak constitution, and think twice before taking your little ones to see this cuddly fuzzy giant. This ain't that kind of movie sweetie! But it is a great movie, and one I recommend you check out as soon as humanly possible. In this case, its the absolute truth to say "It was beauty killed the Beast!"
Broadway's Biggest Star!
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