Okay, here's the deal. I though the first Lord of the Rings movie was so boring and long that I made a conscious decision to avoid the next two. Granted, it was pretty to look at, but all the walking, strolling, and traveling became tedious after awhile. Thus, I approached Peter Jackson's remake of the 1933 classic film King Kong (which clocks in at 3 hours) with a healthy degree of caution. Let's just say my DVD player has a date with 2 towers in the very near future.
King Kong is simply a fabulous movie, perfectly balancing wry comedy, emotional drama, and heart-thumping action without blending them into a transgeneric mishmash. A true feast for the eyes and ears, this film forces you to the edge of your seat at the same time as it disposes you to cry and to laugh. Jackson has assembled an amazing cast here. Funny man Jack Black takes the helm as the relentless filmmaker Carl Denham, determined to shoot his masterpiece on the uncharted Skull Island – a fact he hides from his beautiful starlet, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts). Black successfully tows the line between his comic image and the selfishly villainous character of Denham, being just over-the-top enough to make his performance fun, but not funny. Carl stops at nothing in the pursuit of his art, virtually kidnapping his screenwriting playwright, Jack Driscoll, played perfectly by Adrien Brody, falling second only to his performance in Polanski's The Pianist. King Kong also sees the reunion of Jack Black and Colin Hanks (yes, Tom's son), who teamed up in the teen comedy Orange County a few years back. Hanks plays Black's kindly passive assistant, Preston. Everyone who's ever seen The Simpsons' parody of King Kong knows that on Skull Island, Denham and crew discover a giant ape that they bring back to civilization to exploit, and it runs amuck in the Big Apple. One warning: this film is NOT for children. There are moments of suspense and violence that would probably traumatize little Billy forever if he thinks he's going to see a love story between a lady and a giant monkey.
What makes this film really special though, is Jackson's masterful employment of special effects. Yes, the creatures on the island are CGI, and sometimes look less real than other times, but while many recent "creature films" employ this relatively new technology because, simply, it is easier to use than older methods such as animatronics, Jackson fully takes advantage of the opportunities afforded. Dinosaur chases that go well above and beyond Jurassic Park and disgustingly huge insects that induce a collective shudder in the audience are only a few of the instances in which CGI goes above and beyond what we might expect to see in a film such as this. King Kong's sound also deserves a mention. When Kong roars, I swear you can almost smell his breath.
But overall, King Kong is a sweet story. You want to cheer for the ape as he battles to continually rescue Ann from dinosaurs and heights. The feelings that grow between the two are palpable, as is the rocky relationship between Denham and his various crew members. Of course, the racial subtext remains from the original film, and it will be interesting to see if this version is as well received by the black community as the original, which played in repertory theatres in black neighborhoods repeatedly until well into the 1960s. My friend summed up our collective feelings about this film quite nicely, saying that Peter Jackson should be given a ton of money to keep making movies like this. While the title of this review may be a bit of an overstatement, King Kong is an excellent film that should not be missed by anyone who claims to be a fan of the "bastard art".