Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin
Hanks, Andy Serkis, Evan Parke
2005, 187 Minutes, Directed by:
This second remake of the original 1933 Black & White
movie by director Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings
fame) is hands down the best.
story is well-known: a scheming film-maker and his crew travels by boat to a
previously undiscovered island somewhere in the South Pacific. Alas, the island
lives up to its tourist unfriendly moniker of “Skull Island”: it is infested
with unfriendly natives, prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs as well as
oversized dangerous spiders and other assorted creatures.
The natives kidnap the film
crew’s actress intending to sacrifice her to an enormous gorilla they call
“Kong”. Kong turns out to be a bit of a softy and, ahem, takes a liking to our
blonde heroine before he is captured by the film crew and taken to New York
where he is displayed in a vulgar stage show. Probably thinking that he should
fire his agent, Kong breaks loose and wreaks all kinds of havoc in the Big Apple
with the U.S. army in hot pursuit, which brings me to . . . how few people
actually know how the story ends. Here I was thinking that Kong’s ending is as
well known as the Crucifixion, but apparently not. A lot of the people I polled
ahead of the time simply had no idea how it ends! So not wanting to spoil
anything I won’t reveal any more here.
Peculiar though how each
version takes longer to tell the same tale though: the 1933 classic ran a brisk
100 minutes, the much-maligned 1976 version took 134
minutes, while this version stretches out things to a whopping 187 minutes.
That’s more than three hours, and if there is anything that could count against
this latest version of Kong it is its lengthy running time.
". . . a splendid matinee show and also easily the
best blockbuster flick of 2005."
However, it isn’t too much of a
problem: just as soon as one’s patience is getting worn out by the lengthy boat
trip to Skull Island in the movie’s first act, the movie shifts into a higher
gear with what is definitely the film’s most exciting and thrilling sequences:
King Kong battling not one – but THREE – T-Rexes, cheroot chewing Tommy machine
gun wielding tough guys battling giant oversized bugs, and hostile island
natives wanting to sacrifice the heroine to Kong.
The scenes involving the
natives seem more inspired by the threatening Orcs from Jackson’s previous
Lord of the Rings trilogy than anything else and are
guaranteed to give small children nightmares for weeks on end. Unfortunately a
case could also be made that these scenes are racist: the only Black crewmember
buys it pretty much early on (echoing LL Cool J’s line in Deep Blue Sea that
“brothers don’t make it” in movies like this) while the only other Blacks in the
movie are murderous and vicious barbarians. But I suppose this what one gets
when remaking a movie from an era in which racial sensibilities were pretty much
different from our own and “natives” were in movies like this to simply lend an
exotic and threatening air to the proceedings.
The third and final act comes
as almost an anti-climax, even though it does supply some necessary emotional
heft for the heart-wrenching finale.
This King Kong doesn’t
represent the same leap in special effects as the original 1933 film did. After
all we have already seen the giant CGI gorilla and dinosaurs done in movies like
Mighty Joe Young and the Jurassic Park
movies. In fact some sequences feature some rather obvious bad interaction
between human actors and CGI creations. But in general the effects are done
quite well and Kong himself is excellent, being endowed with his own almost
yet ultimately ape
characteristics. A mixture between Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park
at times, this King Kong is a rousing adventure: the teens in the
audience we saw it with shrieked on cue, the smaller children fled the cinema on
cue and my wife cried towards the end. If the movies are all about entertainment
and thrills, then King Kong is the reason they invented them in the first
place. This is a splendid matinee show and also easily the best blockbuster
flick of 2005.