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|Display Format:||Universal 100th Anniversary; Includes Digital Copy|
|Leading Role:||Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Kyle Chandler, Colin Hanks|
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Despite his origins as a low-budget filmmaker with a taste for the unsavory side of life, Peter Jackson has turned into an "event" filmmaker, someone who can conjure up a movie on a scale unlike anything we've seen before. "KING KONG" is his sprawling, epic remake of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's 1933 movie of the same name, and it is as big as the gorilla that runs riot through Jackson's rendering of Depression-era New York. Keeping the simple yet effective plot intact; a film crew travels to the mysterious Skull Island, picks up Kong, and brings him back to New York City. Jackson expands on this basic premise by drawing on the jaw-dropping talents of his special effects team to satisfy his thirst for the grand spectacle. The movie stars Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, the starry-eyed blonde beauty whom Kong falls for; Jack Black as Carl Denham, a low-rent Orson Welles look-alike who drags the crew to the island to make his movie; and Adrian Brody as Jack Driscoll, a hack playwright who battles Kong both physically and for Darrow's heart. As the men struggle against Kong and the lumbering dinosaurs of Skull Island, Andy Serkis steps in to form the facial features of the mighty gorilla, lending a real emotional sucker-punch to the scenes between Darrow and Kong. But it's the final third of the movie where Jackson really delivers; his 1930s New York is stunning, and when Kong breaks free from his shackles and stampedes on a lovelorn trek through the city, then iconically climbs the Empire State Building with his sweetheart, it's impossible to not be swept away by the sheer beauty and sadness of the moment. While its 3-hour 21-minute length may prove daunting to some, the payoff in Jackson's "KING KONG" is ultimately worth it, proving once again that he is a director of breathtaking vision.
There are astonishments to behold in Peter Jackson's new "King Kong," but one sequence, relatively subdued, holds the key to the movie's success. Kong has captured Ann Darrow and carried her to his perch high on the mountain. He puts her down, not roughly, and then begins to roar, bare his teeth and pound his chest. Ann, an unemployed vaudeville acrobat, somehow instinctively knows that the gorilla is not threatening her but trying to impress her by behaving as an alpha male -- the King of the Jungle. She doesn't know how Queen Kong would respond, but she does what she can: She goes into her stage routine, doing backflips, dancing like Chaplin, juggling three stones.
Her instincts and empathy serve her well. Kong's eyes widen in curiosity, wonder and finally what may pass for delight. From then on, he thinks of himself as the girl's possessor and protector. She is like a tiny beautiful toy that he has been given for his very own, and before long, they are regarding the sunset together, both of them silenced by its majesty.
The scene is crucial because it removes the element of creepiness in the gorilla/girl relationship in the two earlier "Kongs" (1933 and 1976), creating a wordless bond that allows her to trust him. When Jack Driscoll climbs the mountain to rescue her, he finds her comfortably nestled in Kong's big palm. Ann and Kong in this movie will be threatened by dinosaurs, man-eating worms, giant bats, loathsome insects, spiders, machineguns and the Army Air Corps, and could fall to their death into chasms on Skull Island or from the Empire State Building. But Ann will be as safe as Kong can make her, and he will protect her even from her own species.
The movie more or less faithfully follows the outlines of the original film, but this fundamental adjustment in the relationship between the beauty and the beast gives it heart, a quality the earlier film was lacking. Yes, Kong in 1933 cares for his captive, but she doesn't care so much for him. Kong was always misunderstood, but in the 2005 film, there is someone who knows it.
As Kong ascends the skyscraper, Ann screams not because of the gorilla but because of the attacks on the gorilla by a society that assumes he must be destroyed. The movie makes the same kind of shift involving a giant gorilla that Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) did when he replaced 1950s attacks on alien visitors with a very 1970s attempt to communicate with them (by 2005, Spielberg was back to attacking them, in "War of the Worlds").
"King Kong" is a magnificent entertainment. It is like the flowering of all the possibilities in the original classic film. Computers are used not merely to create special effects, but also to create style and beauty, to find a look for the film that fits its story. And the characters are not cardboard heroes or villains seen in stark outline, but quirky individuals with personalities.
Consider the difference between Robert Armstrong (1933) and Jack Black (2005) as Carl Denham, the movie director who lands an unsuspecting crew on Skull Island. A Hollywood stereotype based on C.B. de Mille has been replaced by one who reminds us more of Orson Welles. And in the starring role of Ann Darrow, Naomi Watts expresses a range of emotion that Fay Wray, bless her heart, was never allowed in 1933. Never have damsels been in more distress, but Fay Wray mostly had to scream, while Watts looks into the gorilla's eyes and sees something beautiful.
Despite being the likely biggest fan of King Kong that exists outside of Peter Jackson's immediate family, I was concerned when Universal Studios Home Entertainment announced that they were releasing an extended cut of the film. After all, the remake was almost twice as long as the original film, and even with an abiding passion for the theatrical cut I could certainly see where Jackson and co. might have trimmed a few minutes here and there. So what, then, could (much less should) be added to improve the movie? The answer, as it turns out, is nothing at all.
Because even though only 13 new minutes of material have been re-introduced into the movie, they are, much like sequences added to the theatrical version, superfluous at best. So while Jackson's pedigree as a filmmaker remains undiminished, the new set best serves the purpose of completing King Kong's expansive slate of bonus materials rather than creating another, substantially different cinematic masterpiece a la the Lord of the Rings extended editions.
That said, rewatching the movie was one of the great pleasures I've enjoyed in recent weeks, not the least of which because the original version is just so damn good: from frame one, Jackson creates a faithful recreation of 1930s New York and then populates it with characters and scenarios not only believable but imminently compelling. Kong, meanwhile, remains the greatest-ever CGI character created to date, not only offering some spectacular action but genuine feeling, particularly as the film advances inexorably towards its tragic conclusion. Additionally, it's a small crime that Naomi Watts was not nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Ann Darrow, the object of Kong's affection (and his emotional counterpoint); but while awards glory is fleeting, at least the approbation of sci-fi fan boys is forever.
The new footage, previewed at this year's San Diego Comic Con, is interesting, but ultimately underscores the wealth of footage that might have been better served if it were removed from the theatrical cut; the spider pit sequence, for example, is one of those scenes that would have been brilliant and poignant in the Extended Edition but feels slightly extraneous in the original version. But the added footage is comprised mostly of complete sequences, including the Venture crew's pursuit of Kong on Skull Island; their subsequent dispersal during a trip across a swamp; and an extended showdown between Kong and the Army in New York. Additional details are added intermittently to other sequences for color or texture, but for the most part add only passing fascination with the longer Kong that might have been.
I grew up with a stepfather who adored the original 1933 King Kong. I mean ADORED it. I was subjected to the film several times during my childhood, most of which were spent dozing or daydreaming. I have faint recollection of a few scenes, but not much. I was therefore not entirely enthusiastic about yet another remake of what was not that impressive a film to begin with. My father-in-law, however, had other ideas....
Today was his birthday. For his special day, he wanted only two things from my husband and I. A steak dinner cooked by my husband (the family chef), and for us to accompany him to see King Kong in the theaters. I cringed at the sheer concept when it was presented to me, but as I love the man dearly (and didn't really want his son to be angry with me for all eternity), I agreed to go.
I was so bowled over by this film, I can't begin to describe it. I have no desire to ruin anything for those not familiar with the original (or the book on which all of them are based), but let me just say this: If you are hesitating to see it because of the cheesy stigma attached to anything with the title King Kong, don't. Just buy the ticket, and see the film.
I was not only impressed with the cinematography (could we expect any less from Peter Jackson?), but also the character depth and development. Most films that take on this story are so wrapped up in the manly tale of a gorilla killing and screaming, they forget the story entirely. This movie does no such thing.
From the very beginning, it enraptures the audience with stunning visual effects, intense action sequences, touching romance, and captivating characters. The most heart-wrenchingly beautiful thing in the film, however, is the bond between Kong and his leading lady (Naomi Watts, looking an awful lot like Nicole Kidman). Even the most stoic of viewers will be brought to tears at their complete understanding of each other, with hardly a word spoken.
The film has its humorous moments, as well. An early comment about finding an actress leads to a conversation about "Fay" and how she's doing a "Cooper" picture for RKO. (The original Kong, starring Fay Wray, was shot by Merian Cooper.) Even the sequences in which the Mighty Kong is rushing his new "bride" through the jungles, shot often from her perspective, give an almost funny look at the ragdoll in his hand, Ann Darrow.
I am not a fan of the action-film genre, but this one surpassed anything I could have possibly hoped for. If you have a free rainy afternoon, buy this film. You won't regret it.
Look, before someone mouths off about how this movie compares to the original you gotta remember what you're watching: a remake. I see someone complaining about how the movie differs from the original and that the changes are basically absurd...well the whole point of remaking a movie is to change some of its elements and put your own touch on it - that's just what Peter Jackson did and it worked. I am a fan of the original, but with today's CGI and high quality film making, it's about time King Kong was reinvented. People criticize the choice of Jack Black as Karl Denham...well it works because he is great in this film. Peter Jackson doesn't just give us Kong like the original film, he gives us a plethera of characters and personalities through out the film. Also, he does something that the original didn't really do: he humanized Kong. The emotional attachment Kong has for Ann is much stronger and put into perspective. Jackson did a great job, also, of making Kong more like a real ape as far as his mannerisms went. As we see his love for Ann develop, we begin to feel sorry for the massive primate - especially when he meets his demise at the end. The original Kong was an action flick, pure and simple; Jackson's version is so much more. Jackson's Kong is action, adventure, some comedy, some sci-fi and definitely a whole lot of romance/drama. Everyone will enjoy this film. Oh, now you're gonna complain about the length...? Ok, so on paper it seems like it's too long - just sit down and watch it, though, and you'll suddenly notice that this movie clicks and gels so perfectly that you'll never even notice its length. Kong looks real...stop criticizing what CGI has done for films. While at times you can tell you're looking at a computer image and not a real ape, there are thousands of other times where you completely forget that Kong isn't real like the actors around him. Besides, how can you complain about CGI Kong without complaining about claymation Kong? Clearly a step-up. If you liked the old movie, keep an open mind and try this movie...you'll be pleasantly surprised. Anyone who hasn't seen these movies, it's not just some giant gorilla destroying the city, it's such a deep story that everyone will enjoy.