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Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” (2005) PG-13 181min

September 17th, 2007 by Maxim · 3 Comments · 12,280 Views

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4/5

Peter Jackson's King Kong

It was so bloody long! And extended version is 20 minutes longer!

It seems Peter Jackson is still in his “Lord of the Rings” mode with huge budgets, enormous landscapes and mountains so tall one cal almost reach the Moon from them.

My most favorite King Kong is still one from the 1976: when I was a little kid my world was smaller too, and animatronics felt so real… The human heroes were a lot more likeable too.

This version is set in Depression era. A struggling (who wasn’t?), but very ambitious film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) is making an epic picture, and he’s prepared to tell any lie to his cast and crew to make them go to a recently discovered Skull Island to shoot to movie on location. He even manages to practically kidnap the play-writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) to write the script he needs and picks up an unemployed actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) for a supporting female role. He feeds his crew, his cast and even the Captain Engelhorn (Thomas Kretschmann – great actor, but keeps playing captains of all sorts – he was Frans Bietrich in WWII drama “Head in the clouds”, “In Enimy Hands” a.k.a. “U 429″, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld in “The Pianist” together with Adrien Brody and Capt.-Lt. Gunther Wassner in “U-571″) empty promises. They escape from New York because the studio is after the money Denham embezzled. On the ship Ann and Jack fall in love. When captain received telegram that there’s a warrant to Carl Denham’s arrest, but it’s too late to turn around: they get lost in the fog of Island of the Scull that turns out to be surrounded by the wall and also the crew encounters different “warning signs” (skulls, menacing stone statues etc.), as well as natives.  Then island’s natives kidnap Ann, just like in the old movie, to offer to the island’s mysterious creature: a 24-foot tall monkey which natives call Kong. But the beast and the beauty actually like each other: the monkey likes her artistic performance and even becomes protective of his new toy, and Ann, although she tries to escape at first, soon finds out that she’s safer around Kong because there are more dangerous creatures on the island. Ann ( Naomi Watts ) and Kong (performed by Andy Serkis ) in Universal Pictures' King KongKong didn’t want Ann for a breakfast: he seemed to be in need of a companion. They form some sort of reciprocal relationship, and when time comes Ann will have to protect Kong. Even though the movie Carl Denham wanted does not work out because so many people died on the hostile island, he finds a new way to exploit the situation: he captures Kong and brings him to New York as a biggest attraction in the world, a new Broadway show, hence the title of the movie: “King Kong: The Eights Wonder of The World”. But the monstrous creature escapes and wreaks destruction on the cities of New York: not good for the city and it’s inhabitants who now see King Kong as an alien that must be destroyed.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex in Universal Pictures' King KongComparison to 1976 version: Kong gets to shake part of the crew off the giant tree that worked as a bridge between two cliffs. He bit some heads off and stepped on a lot of cars and people, but for the most part the Kong action was new and quite inventive. But why did King Kong have to fight not one, not two, but three dynasauruses? It’s because of waste of film like this that does not add anything to the story [or experience] that this movie is so damn long. For the final scene Peter Jackson chose Empire State Building as opposed to twin towers as in Dino De Laurentis’ movie. Great effects, but the story does not benefit from them.

Comparison to 1933 version: Jackson’s is the only version where Ann cares for Kong. In 1933 version their gorilla/girl relationship was quite creepy and Ann didn’t care for Kong much. Oh, and did I mention special effects? Well,  there were some advances in this area in the past 75 years.

Since I am watching this version of the movie 2nd time on DVD, I didn’t care about the story anymore and just watched for the purpose of the review. I liked how the island seemed to capture our crew in a trap. Jack Black and John Sumner in Universal Pictures' King KongThe foggy atmosphere is present throughout the movie: in both New York, the sea and the island. It adds the feeling of events that happen “long time ago” in “dark times”, but it’s also a cinematic trick to hide details of the background, create perception of depth of the atmosphere in CGIs and hide details of fake backgrounds in pavilion shots. Also, maybe because DVD is playing at higher frame rate then the movie in the theater, the mismatches between CGI and live action is more noticeable. Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody in Universal Pictures' King KongThe light in many scenes feels unnatural and gives up the fact that they are shot on a set. Very nice CGIs, as we’d expect from Peter Jackson: from 1933 New York to ship in the sea, to King Kong himself, vast heights of the mountain-scapes and various creatures on the island. Jackson wanted to create an epic, but spent too much time on Kong fight scenes and ripping off Jurassic Park, while great characters like captain and Jimmy were completely forgotten. In the second half of the movie, Carl Denham became a secondary character.

There is a moral in this movie. People will always be people. They will exploit whatever resources they can put their hands on, as well as take advantage of other people. They’ll destroy anything if they can sell some admission tickets for it. “Oh, look! A big monkey! More! More!” When Kong is captured, everybody feels like god – a human can rule and control this creature. When Kong escapes, “Quick, kill it!” In this movie an animal turned out to be the most humane creature. Even when he’s wounded he saves Ann once again. Everybody else is a consumer. I remember I left the theatre with a slight guilt complex.

The best actor in the movie is, no doubt, Naomi Watts. This could as well be silent movie: she does 90% of her acting with her big blue eyes and her body language (it’s pointless to talk to the money in English the way heroine of the 1976 version was). I loved her cabaret dance for Kong and the exchange of looks in the final scene.

The final scene, especially the exchange of looks between Kong and Ann speak so much. Kong almost tells, “you were my special friend, my Beauty, [cheesy, I know], and I know it’s not your fault, and I know I’m gonna die here”.

Random notes:

  • Where the hell did poor film director Carl Denham get that map of undiscovered island?
  • The young man who played Billy Elliot, Jamie Bell, is great in this movie as a young sailor Jimmy. He is a fantastic actor.
  • In this movie, once again, it’s not clear whether Kong is a boy or a girl: how else would it earn PG-13 rating in America?
  • Kong loves nice landscapes and beautiful sunsets, be it on top of the mountain on his home island or on top of Empire State Building in New York city.
  • The army of monsters that want to eat the film and ship crew is never-ending.
  • Jack Black is very good here (well, everybody here is giving their best performances) – it’s nice to see him in a different role finally – all his previous roles were mostly the same: comedic roles where he was doing most of his acting with his eyebrows.
  • A shot when Ann and Jack Driscoll catch a pterodactyls to escape Kong was way over the top.
  • I liked when King Kong was on the very top of Empire State building: for a brief moment he was the King of the World.
  • When King Kong is chasing Jack down the streets, Ann appears in her white dress (in the middle of winter) walking down the train tracks with a halo around her head, followed by a short exchange of looks. All of a sudden there are no people on the streets, only parked cars are around. Kong carries her through Central Park and discovers ice of the frozen lake where he spins on ice in a dance. Could reunion of beauty and the beast be any more cheesier? And Ann must be quite chilly in her thin dress un on Empire State building in the middle of winter, but she’s not. Another continuity problem here is that her dress always stays clean and ironed. She didn’t lose her high-heel shoes either.
  • How did Jimmy, who never held a gun before, shoots bugs off Jack with machine gun, with his eyes mostly closed?
  • The Brontosaurus stampede scene was too much like a computer game.
  • Kong displayed some exceptional martial arts skills when fighting three tyrannosauruses.
  • the final credits run for over 10 minutes!

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Rated 4/5 on Sep 17 2007
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Tags: Adventure · DVD · Drama · Movies

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Todd Yoshikawa // Sep 26, 2007 at 8:15 am

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    I agree that some of the special effects seemed to be thrown in just to serve as eye candy instead of serving the plot. I guess Jackson wanted to create the same feeling of visual awe with the audience the way the original 1933 version did with audiences back then.
    I don’t think enough credit was given to Naomi Watts’ performance. In an homage to the old movies, her performance was very much like a silent film performance, emphasizing facial expressions and bodily movements instead of dialogue. She had to create a realistic and sympathetic relationship with Kong without saying anything, and I think she was outstanding in that respect.
    BTW, my favorite part of the movie was when Kong, after killing the dinosaurs and saving Ann, dragged her and himself up to his favorite perch up in the mountains. He wearily sat himself down and just silently looked out at the sunset over the valley. He didn’t want to acknowledge Ann, bask in his accomplishments, or do much of anything. The only thing missing from that scene would be him telling Ann, “Honey, I’ve had a hard day of killing dinosaurs. I just want to sit here and quietly watch my favorite sunset. Get me a beer.”

  • 2 sunny // Apr 22, 2011 at 11:58 am

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    The 1976 one is so crappy and so fake and was a flop. This one is the best one of all!!

  • 3 rohit // Jul 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm

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    the trailer of the movie king kong(2005) has a song i am not being able to locate… can anyone help me with that…
    it has the following wordings:-

    its an unlike story…

    o lets start with something new
    o lets start with something beautiful…

    before its too late…

    CAN SOMEONE help me find this song please… I am desperate

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