King Kong (2005)

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Film review of the fantasy about an enormous gorilla on a prehistoric island and his love for the female sacrificial offering (Naomi Watts). 

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Director: Peter Jackson. Universal/WingNut/Big Primate/MFPV (12)

ACTION/ADVENTURE/FANTASY

 

Cast & credits


Producers
: Jan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh.
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson.
Camera: Andrew Lesnie.
Music: James Newton Howard.
Sets: Grant Major.

Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell, Lobo Chan, John Sumner, Craig Hall, Kyle Chandler.

Synopsis

During the depression, ambitious film director Carl Denham (Black) fails to impress studio top brass with his latest footage for a daring new adventure. They are even less impressed that he wants funding for an overseas shoot. Recruiting down on her luck vaudeville artist Ann Darrow (Watts) he decides to lie his way to this destination, virtually kidnapping his screenwriter Jack (Brody) on to duped Captain Englehorn’s (Kretschmann) cargo ship. Eventually he is rumbled, but not before the ship runs aground just where Denham wants to disembark. The strange, uncharted island is inhabited by people who live in fear of a huge gorilla called ‘Kong’, appeasing it with human sacrifices. Blonde Ann is kidnapped and offered as the next one, so Jack and the crew have to save her; Denham however has ideas to take the beast back to New York to exhibit him.

Review, by Jason DayKing Kong (2005) poster

Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy opened big, got bigger and finished biggest, so it was always a head-scratching scenario imagining what on earth could out-do Middle Earth? The answer was perhaps simpler than we thought – a remake of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1933 fantasy classic about an all-mighty big gorilla running amok on an island populated by dinosaurs and other beasties before being taken to NYC.

Jackson just about manages to top his previous three films, in terms of sheer audacity if nothing else. He throws into the mix every possible slimy creature, creepy crawly and Jurassic monster he can. Indeed, for the middle part of the film, it’s one long chase through skull island with hardly enough chance to catch your breath between each excellently CGI’d monster. Suffice to say, the effects are remarkable throughout, but one would expect nothing less from a master movie showman, a modern day Cecil Kiwi DeMille.

He also manages to whack an extra two hours on to the running time as well, so all of these action sequences become palling after a while (“Gee! Another dinosaur. Wow! Someone else got eaten!” etc etc), but it’s the mark of a great director that you stay with him for the ride and still enjoy it.

But despite all of this polish and sheen with the technical side of the film, Jackson gets far better mileage from his acutely observed montage of Depression weary New York and the ‘romantic’ scenes between Kong and Watts are handled with such deftness and sensitivity that they become a thing of true beauty and genuine accomplishment.

Fay Wray was never meant to do anything but scream and look lovely in the original movie (the least said of Jessica Lange in the 1976 version the better), but here Watts is handed an interesting update of the role. This leading lady can act up a storm, may not be able to climb down from a skyscraper but is resourceful and if not a feminist icon is at least wily enough to get by on her own. Watts provides a performance that is by turns funny and touching enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Black enjoys himself enormously in a role he was born to play, a con-man in all but name who would sell his own Grandmother to buy another reel of film. Brody’s character is underdeveloped leaving him to struggle against Watts and Black, but all three are cast into the shadow of the title character for which Serkis, with the help of green screen wizardry, helped to interpret. His previous stint ‘playing’ Gollum for Jackson clearly gave him years of experience for this Kong is an all too recognisably human character and whose huge size and power render him fallible when he falls in love.

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