THUMBS UP FILM REVIEW RATING!
It’s been 72 years since audiences were graced with Merian C. Cooper's epic KING KONG film, a movie that stunned and amazed. Never before seen special effects and a great story greeted those who bustled into theaters in 1933. And now, in 2005, Peter Jackson (director of the excellent LORD OF THE RINGS film trilogy) takes on the task of reintroducing movie-goers with this legendary tale.
If you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past 72-plus years, let me enlighten you: King Kong is a massive ape (about the size of a T-Rex Dinosaur) that lives on the fictitious Skull Island. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong), a filmmaker, is desperate to find the island and shoot a new film starring actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). But once they find the island, a group of nasty natives captures Miss Darrow and "present" her to King Kong as a gift. A race to save Ann Darrow ensues and, on top of that, to capture and bring Kong back to New York City to show off as the 8th Wonder of the World.
Once captured and returned to NYC, all goes horribly wrong as Kong escapes, recaptures Miss Darrow, climbs to the top of the Empire State Building, and is shot to death by Army Air Corp planes.
The thing that made the 1933 Kong so interesting was the relationship between Kong and Miss Darrow’s character. And Peter Jackson uses that to full advantage here, going even further in his telling of that unusual relationship by having Ann Darrow (now played by Naomi Watts) actually care for Kong as much as he cares for her. That’s not to say this is about some twisted relationship between simian and human, but the emotions they feel for one another is easily palpable throughout the movie. This is the biggest strength of the film and one of Mr. Jackson’s fortes (watch the LORD OF THE RINGS if you doubt it).
And speaking of LORD OF THE RINGS, that film was Peter Jackson’s crowning achievement. The care and meticulous nature with which he put those movies together are easily seen. But here, that meticulousness got a bit lost...
#1. The relationship between two of the shipmates (a mentor/student type) is given lots of screen time and then summarily dropped without explanation as to why the relationship was started in the first place.
#2. Jack Black (SCHOOL OF ROCK, 2003) picks up the roll as filmmaker Carl Denham and does so only moderately well. Part of the problem was the scripting of his character. He’s not a very nice man, will do anything (even risk the lives of everyone and everything) to get what he wants, and says the hollow "It was beauty that killed the beast" line at the end of the film (which rang completely false considering how Kong came to be in New York in this version).
#3. When the ship carrying all of the prime characters becomes lost, the captain asks one of his crew to take the sextant out and spot some stars. Umm, sextants were used to measure the movement of the sun across the horizon, not stars.
#4. The film was just too long. My butt began to ache from sitting in a theater for three hours. Cutting length really was needed. But I think Mr. Jackson is a bit spoiled on this issue thanks to the success of his LORD OF THE RINGS trilogies.
#5. The cutesy ice-rink scene (barf!).
Although these problems plagued the film, there was some stunning CGI work that actually made me dizzy. Specifically, the airplane scenes as they shot at Kong on top of the building. The circling and diving of the planes was amazing. Kong’s presence was also completely believable although we all know it’s a CGI creation. But he was so lifelike that it took absolutely no effort on my part to suspend disbelief that he wasn’t real.
And that’s about it for one of this year’s blockbuster films. A good film, but one that needed a bit more detailed care by someone as sharp as Mr. Jackson.
Oscar Award Winner: Achievement in Visual Effects
Oscar Award Winner: Achievement in Sound Mixing