- Peter Jackson
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The result is quite a new experience, a re-imagining of the original film, an all-new treatment based on the ďbeauty and the beastĒ story that takes itself very seriously. Business isnít looking good for director Carl Denham (Jack Black), whoís letting his investors down with his ďsafari moviesĒ and doesnít have a very viable project in store. Itís 1933 New York, and times arenít easy for artists, so Denham decides to cling to his one possibility to make his dream picture. He finds a struggling actress, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), in the streets, and off he goes on a ship to an undiscovered island where he plans to film his picture. Most people on board, from ship crew to film staff, donít know the truth, but Denham is smart enough to take them all there, ready to work for him. Darrow herself and the filmís screenwriter, Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), are among the fooled ones. The destination: Skull Island, where prehistoric life presumably prevails. Once they get there, they find hostility in the natives, and a gigantic wall that divides them from the prehistoric creatures, and the king of the land: Kong, a giant ape.
The story is well-known by film buffs and a blast of imagination. Back in 1933, however, it worked much better, probably on account of peopleís capacity to be awed, or probably because it was sold much more like a fantasy than it is now. It was easier to believe that an island is inhabited by dinosaurs and a giant ape when the whole mood was fantastic, as opposed to the sort of realism thatís attempted in this remake. Sadly, when presented like this, the matters that defy logic are much easier to question, like why that visionary thatís Denham would prefer to take the giant ape back home instead of one of the dinosaurs, undoubtedly much more interesting creatures. Is it so it can climb to the top of the Empire State? But how would he know thatís the apeís fate if he didnít see the original film?
Most people complain about the overlong first chapter, before they get to Skull Island, and I want to declare happily that Iím not amongst them. While I do think so much time is not necessary, I quite enjoyed the trip, fell in love with Ann, admired Denham, and felt expectant of the end of the trip. What I didnít like as much was the stay at Skull Island. There, it was all about exaggerating the action, over-exposing the characters (especially those played by Evan Parke and Jamie Bell, in an annoying mentor/protťgťe subplot) and just taking too long at each step. Plus, and thatís just a matter of personal appreciation, I felt a ďLord of the RingsĒ undertone that I just didnít like. Itís not a secret that Iím not a fan of Jacksonís filmmaking style when it comes to action and exoticism, and both the natives and the monsters seemed exaggerated to me like everything has to be EXTRA-peculiar to be interesting. Later in the film, the theater sequence uses the original choreography and Max Steiner score from the natives sequence of the 1933 film, and I wasnít sure I admired the homage or felt a little homesick.
Thereís a lot of richness in the main motivator of the film, the ďBeauty and the beastĒ element, which adds an interest from Darrow towards Kong and gives them depth. When Kong is not beating the shit out of a dinosaur, heís a pretty interesting character, because heís so intrigued by Darrow, who changes his life. Her own reactions are also quite interesting and Watts is easily the best performer of the film. This element adds a new layer to the King Kong story, makes it all the more affecting, and changes the whole sense of the final New York sequence, including the closing Denham quote (ďIt wasnít the airplanes, it was beauty killed the beastĒ).
The Denham character was also changed a bit. This guy is much more of an explorer, an entrepreneur, a ruthless artist. Driscoll becomes a much more important player too, involved in the whole process, and also quite an outcast during the trip. Both Black and Brody do a good job at portraying these guys. Also, good work by Andy Serkis playing out Kong (to be digitalized later) as well as that Lumpy character, one that gave me genuine laughs.
When I first saw the film, I was pleased with the scenes that pay tribute to the original, but after thinking and reading a bit more, I was pissed off at the one that mocks the original romantic dialogue at the ship. Thatís a self-indulgent Jackson bit that almost dares say that this film (or at least, its dialogue) is superior to the original. That comparison is unnecessary and somewhat offensive. Trying not to be a jerk, I could say itís also a statement of how movies have changed, how a more realistic dialogue is necessary now to make things better. But if that be the case, whatís with the Parke/Bell subplot, the ludicrous dialogue there, and the tiresome ďHeart of darknessĒ references? And what about the silly transformation of the lead actor Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler), and how Captain Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann) reacts to it? I could go on and on about this. The film has quite a few flaws, and I refuse to dismiss them just because the whole of it, the final result, is a good film. I wouldnít dare rate this movie with less than three starts, because thatís how good it is, but I also want to make sure to point out whatís bad about it. And this is some of it.
To wrap up, Iíll say that the visual effects are outstanding. Great work reproducing the depression era New York, too! Dream stuff. And that final sequence atop the Empire State is one of the coolest ever seen, no doubt about it. Wonderful costume design, too, and all in all, itís just a work of art, the whole of it. The music score by James Newton Howard is serviceable but unmemorable. And the script by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson (based on the original by Merican C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace) could be way better.
Still a must-see in the big screen, just for the awe-inspiring experience.
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Other reviews of King Kong (2005): Morris
- Peter Jackson
- Reviewed by
- Josť Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Thursday, December 29, 2005
Struggling film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) is looking to make a movie in a scale that no one has ever seen before. Heís got a script by renowned Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and a whole crew ready to embark on an adventurous trip to Skull Island, even though Denham has not been precisely honest with everyone on board. The new addition is actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), a replacement Denham just found on the streets and convinced to go along for the ride. What they ultimately find in this mysterious island is something beyond their wildest dreamsÖ
Iím going to start commenting on the movie by stating that it is not perfect and by getting the bad out of the way first so that I can continue praising its impressive achievements in the next paragraphs. Much has been said about the first act being too long for its own good. And Iím just about to join the chorus: the first act really is longer than it needs to be. Jackson takes a little over an hour just to establish the characters and situations theyíre going through. That is a lot of exposition if you ask me, and the movie tends to drag here and there. Now, Iím no filmmaker so I canít really claim to know what a good solution mightíve been, but I can say that, for example, the entire parent-son subplot regarding two members of the crew, Hayes (Evan Parke) and Jimmy (Jamie Bell), couldíve been trimmed. We only need to really care for the three main characters (four if you count Kong) so why waste so much time on others?
That said, King Kong is one of the most exciting, adventurous, drool-inducing, heart-pounding blockbusters of all-time!
The movie starts with a nicely-put-together montage that essentially shows us what life was like in 1933 New York in the middle of the Great Depression. Then we are introduced to Ann, Carl, Jack, Capt. Englehorn, the boat crew, and the film staff. Soon they are all off to the adventure, getting to Skull Island and being captured by creepy natives, who then kidnap Ann and offer her to Kong. If all of this sounds too much like spoiler material, donít worry, this is where the meat of the movie really startsÖ and doesnít literally let you go until the movie is over.
Without delving into specifics, I just need to say that the second act of the movie, which takes place in the island, is one non-stop action scene after the other, with all of them delivering as much excitement and entertainment as a movie can do. There is a jaw-dropping brontosaurs rampage that is like nothing I had ever seen. There is an unbearable insect attack that is not for the squeamish (me included). And then there is a 10-minute bloody fight between Kong and three tyrannosauruses that is an instant classic. Once the movie gets to the third act, back in New York, weíre exhausted, but hungry for more. And boy do we get it in the form of the impressive Empire State attack. Now, Iím running out of adjectives here, but this scene is glorious beyond words. I could feel the adrenaline, the vertigo, the danger. I was there and it was exhilarating. Filmmaking at this scale, and done with such expertise, comes only once in a while. But Peter Jackson did it.
For all the exciting and huge scenes in the movie, I still count a couple of quieter ones as my favorite. The first happens just as Kong is fighting the last T-Rex, with Ann in the middle of both. She suddenly turns to Kong and steps behind him, acknowledging him as her protector. There isnít a more magical moment in the movie. What happens after this is also delightful, but Iíll let you discover it for yourself. My second favorite scene happens almost at the end of the movie, so I wonít go into details except to say that it takes place in Central Park and itís between Kong and Ann as well. If I recall correctly, what Jackson brings to this movie that is new to the proceedings is a more intimate relationship between these two characters, a relationship that never ceases to be between a savage beast and a fragile damsel, yet it feels true because of what they have both been through and because of the realistic way it develops. Their attachment is so honest that at the end tears inevitably come. This movie has one big heart, and therein lies its overall success.
Now, for all the genius of Peter Jackson, he certainly surrounded himself with a dream team that made what we see on screen possible. The special effects are brilliant. We still feel like some characters are being superimposed to a fake background, yet the work they did with the ďlivingĒ creatures is mesmerizing. Never for one second do we not believe that Kong is real. And the same goes for every other specimen in store. Even Kongís eyes have life in them. I was floored. The photography, costumes and production design are also impeccable. And James Newton Howard delivers a fantastic score that is not intrusive in the least, but fits perfectly.
The movie belongs to Kong, and special notice should be given to actor Andy Serkis. He actually played the giant ape before getting transformed with digital effects into what we see on screen. His is the work of a true artist. And heís quite good in the human role he takes as well. Naomi Watts is the second standout, for her role is perhaps the most difficult of all. We have to believe in the relationship between these two for the movie to work, and having shot most of her scenes with nothing in front speaks volumes about her talent. Jack Black is surprisingly fine as Carl Denham, and Adrien Brody elevates a role that is there mainly to be Annís love interest. The rest of the cast is uniformly good.
A little bit of extra fun: spotting all the references to the original movie that screenwriters Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philipa Boyens specifically placed for die-hard fans. Their movie is an exemplary homage that takes a life of its own. And I canít think of a better compliment...
ďIt was beauty killed the beast.Ē
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Other reviews of King Kong (2005): Groucho