STARRING: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis, Evan Parke

2005, 187 Minutes, Directed by:
Peter Jackson

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.

The 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 human 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.



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