Starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell
Written By: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens
Directed By: Peter Jackson
It’s been 62 years since there has been a movie even remotely related to King Kong that has been worth watching. There was a remake in the 70’s that modernized the story but with modernizing it, I thought that it lost all of its’ mystique. Kong looked like what he was most of the story…a man in a gorilla suit.
When I used to watch that movie, I waited in anticipation for King Kong to appear holding balloons and a birthday card. Yeah, it was that terrible. When I heard that a remake was in the works, I cringed. Didn’t they do this already? When I heard that Peter Jackson was the man behind the remake and that his version would be a close representation of the original King Kong movie, I shouted out in jubilation…well not really, but I was pretty excited. Well the time was upon us so I gathered up some friends on a Friday night and set out to experience King Kong on the big screen.
First of all, I was disappointed that there was no trailer for X3 like I had been hearing that there was. As usual, the movie trailers that were included were crappy. And now for the feature presentation! King Kong opened up with a scene that looked like it was from The Gangs of New York. The audience was catapulted back to New York City circa 1933. People lived in shacks in fields and under bridges and waited in food lines due to the Great Depression. Comedians, actors, and entertainers performed on various stages throughout the setting. It is here that the main character and Kong’s love interest is introduced, Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow. What a great job casting Naomi for the role. One particular line in the movie said it best…Naomi is the saddest looking actress that I have ever seen. She resembles Nicole Kidman and is just as attractive. During these opening scenes in New York, the audience is introduced to the rest of the cast as well. Jack Black plays Carl Denham, an optimistic, semi-accomplished filmmaker who will break any and all rules in order to get the perfect shot. Adrien Brody plays the talented writer/playwright who is forced into writing a complete script for Denham. These three characters, other than Kong, make up the core of the movie.
Without giving too much of the story away for those who have yet to see it or have never seen the original movie or read the novel (you can come out of your caves now), the story of King Kong is a story of a beast and his lethal beauty. The ambitious Carl Denham hires a crew of animal trappers to take him to a place where he believes an uncharted island never before seen by white men lies in the ocean waters. This island is called Skull Island. There are legends that say on this island, a large wall older than modern civilization has been built in order to contain a beast neither man nor monster. Denham plans to find this island and film the movie that will make his career. Of course, Denham finds this island and gets a little more than expected. The island looks deserted, but Denham’s group is ambushed by hostile natives and Ann is taken captive. The natives plan to do to Ann what they have done to countless innocent female members of their tribe…sacrifice her to Kong. Lots of action and adventure ensues over the next three hours ending with King Kong being king no more as his twisted body lies on the streets of New York. Beauty killed the beast yet again.
If I were to sum up my opinion of King Kong in one word, it would be Wow! One word doesn’t make for a good review so I’ll get into a little more detail than that. Wow! What did I like about this movie? The easier question is “What didn’t I like about this movie?” That’s a very short list. The good clearly outweighs the bad. First and foremost, King Kong looked amazing. The CGI was so realistic that I thought that I was watching a 25-foot tall monkey playing the part of Kong. His movements were flawless, his facial expressions were very believable, and the detail put into everything from dirt and mud stuck in his fur to the snow on his head were amazingly realistic. I just could not and cannot get over how realistic and life-like Kong was. King Kong’s behavior was based completely on modern behavioral habits and characteristics of modern day gorillas King Kong was grounded by proven scientific facts. As with Gollum in Lord of the Rings, King Kong was as much of a true character and star of the movie as Naomi Watts and Jack Black were.
The casting for King Kong was spot on. All of the main characters were believable and down to earth in one way or another. Naomi Watts for instance could make you believe that the great ape was hauling her around, she could make you laugh, and she could make you cry all within the same scene. She was a very powerful actress and, in my mind, really made the movie. Unlike any of the other King Kong movies, Naomi’s Ann was very empathetic and seemed to feel a genuine compassion for Kong. The interaction between Ann and Kong was befitting of some of the great romances of our time. You just wanted the two to be together and be happy, as strange as that may sound.
Adrien Brody played Ann Darrow’s other love interest, Jack Driscoll. Jackson’s take on Driscoll was a far cry from the original movie. Jack was no longer the headstrong stereotypical hero type he was in the original King Kong, but more of the intellectual literary type who would plot out his actions before acting bluntly. I actually like the new Jack Driscoll. I feel that the character is down to earth and more honest than the earlier version. When Jack rushes headfirst into the jungle in search of Ann, you know and you believe that he cares deeply for her and would do anything to get her back even if it costs him his life. Jack is blinded by love and he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Jack Black as Carl Denham seemed a bit of a stretch at first, but Jack managed to outdo himself in King Kong. Peter Jackson’s Denham is loosely based on the master filmmaker, Orson Welles. Denham would make his movie at any cost, whether that cost is the death of his crew or his own life. Shady yet brilliant. His role in the movie is definitely that of the villain. From the moment that you first met Carl Denham, you didn’t like him and you knew that everything that happens would be his entire fault. He would suck you into his web like the giant spiders would and he would suck you dry. It was a pity that he didn’t quite get what he deserved.
One of my favorite characters in the movie that doesn’t get much attention is Thomas Kretschmann who plays Captain Englehorn, captain of the ship that transports Denham and his film crew to Skull Island. The captain was a very strong character who at first bowed to Denham’s demands and seemed just as corrupt as Denham but who throughout the film proved to be one of the stronger characters in the movie. In times of peril, Captain Englehorn was always there to save the day. He refused to leave any of his crewmen or passengers behind and when Kong captured Ann, the captain gathered his crew, equipped them with guns and ammo and went after her. Captain Englehorn was definitely one of the unsung heroes and a very likable character.
There were a lot of things that were left out of King Kong that were left out of the original in honor of the original but there was one scene in particular that is new to the remake. The audience once again was left wondering who built the wall on Skull Island and why there was a large ape alive on an island filled with dinosaurs and reptiles. Yet again it remains a mystery on exactly how Denham managed to get Kong on the ship and bring him back to New York and what exactly happened in the eight months between Kong being captured and him appearing in New York on exhibit. And finally, what happened to Kong’s body after he plummets to the streets of New York. From what I read, these scenes were left untold to maintain the mystery of the original movie. Personally, I would rather have seen some of those all-important moments finally being shown for the very first time. The one scene that we finally did get to witness was the battle of man versus insect as the remaining crewmen along with Driscoll and Denham fight what seems like a hopeless battle for their lives against wave after wave of killer insects and enormous spiders. This was also one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Many of the remaining men begin to fall under the relentless assault of the hungry insects as a somber musical piece sets the mood of hopelessness and death. All seems lost when, at the very last moment, the captain and his crew along with the cowardly action star actor swoop in and save the day. A very cool scene and a great movie moment.
As I mentioned before, there weren’t many parts of King Kong that I didn’t like, but there were a few parts that just seemed either too long and drawn out or somewhat ridiculous. One scene that was a little outrageous was the brontosaurus stampede where a spooked herd of brontosauri are being chased by velociraptors. Denham and crew are caught in the middle of the stampede and all but a couple men manage to make it out alive. There was just one totally unbelievable scene after another. There is no doubt in my mind that if something like this were to truly happen, everyone caught up in the stamped would be trampled to a pulp. If somehow they did manage to survive the two dozen or so massive dino-feet, they would most certainly be eaten by one of the raptors. The second scene that was a little ridiculous was the battle between Kong and the T-Rex. Don’t get me wrong, this was one of the coolest movie battles ever, but it just seemed that Ann was invincible or just flat out stupid lucky. There were so many ways that she could have died in a five minute span and so many completely outrageous things that happened to her with out causing but a scratch on her. It was just ridiculous. That’s all that I can say. Come on now. I mean, you wouldn’t show Kong being transported on the ship to New York, but you’ll show a couple of T-Rex’s hanging from vines trying to eat Ann and who happened to get caught in the vines at the exact same spot as Ann did. Riiight…
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that other than a couple scenes that were pointless and drawn out in my mind, King Kong was probably one of the best movies that I have seen EVER. Yeah, it was that good. There were just so many things that amazed me about the movie. The CGI work on Kong himself, the twisted jungle sets that depict Skull Island, the casting, the spider scene, King Kong battling for his life against bi-planes on top of the Empire State Building, the human behaviors of Kong and his complete infatuation with Ann and vice versa. Throughout the entire movie, you want to view Kong as the villain but you just can’t. You truly are drawn into the character of Kong and you realize that he is more than just an animal. You feel sad for Kong because he is paraded around as such and that a creature as amazing as Kong is viewed as nothing more than a circus attraction. Peter Jackson captures the true nature of the story of the King of Skull Island. Kong is a tragic character who by the selfishness and ignorance of man is destined to fail. The great beast wanted nothing more than to be loved and to be left alone. Because of man, he was reduced to nothing more than a scared animal that has been taken from his home and who is out of his element. In the end, Kong was not the animal nor was it beauty that killed the beast…it was the beasts that had killed beauty.
I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see King Kong but might wait until the DVD release…this is one of those movies that you have to see in the theatre. It’s not just a movie it’s an experience. What are you waiting for? Go now!!!
Favorite Scenes: The spider scene, Kong at the top of the Empire State Building, every scene with Naomi Watts in it, the dinosaurs, King Kong himself.
Running Time: 187 minutes