King Kong
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Peter Jackson
scr Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
with Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell, Colin Hanks, Thomas Kretschmann, Kyle Chandler, Evan Parke, Lobo Chan, John Sumner, Ray Woolf
release NZ 13.Dec.05,
US 14.Dec.05,
UK 15.Dec.05
05/New Zealand Universal 3h07

But I love him: Watts and Brody

black serkis bell

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King Kong After 10 hours of The Lord of the Rings, it's no surprise that Jackson can make a spectacular action film with emotional depth. This remake is thrilling on every level. Even if it's also rather self-indulgent.

Carl Denham (Black) is a 1933 filmmaker desperate to get his movie made, even if it means stealing the footage and sneaking off with cast and crew to an uncharted island. Once there, they discover an ancient civilisation and a lot of unusually enormous animals, including the massive gorilla Kong (motion-performance by Serkis) who falls for and runs off with actress Ann Darrow (Watts). The ship's crew and the film's writer Jack Driscoll (Brody), who also has a crush on Ann, launch a rescue. Next stop: New York.

Jackson and his cowriters have expanded this story in every conceivable direction, giving even small side characters meaningful back-stories, witty dialog and huge moral dilemmas. While adds texture, it also extends the length. This is a huge gorilla of a movie that reaches out and grabs onto us in every conceivable way, and keeps us utterly gripped through all three thunderous, action-packed hours.

It helps that the cast is full of solid actors like Watts, Brody, Bell and Kretschmann, plus superb scene-stealers like Black and Chandler. We even get to see Serkis on screen in a second role, as the ship's cook. And it also helps that Jackson's Weta provided the astounding effects work, which is simply jaw-dropping, even though most of it looks like effects work. But the action sequences are heart-pounding in every conceivable way--thrilling, freaky, grisly and even emotionally wrenching.

Alas, this excellence doesn't really make the film any more than a monster movie, complete with both illogical (Ann survives Kong's first romp with her through the jungle?) and cornball (ice skating?) scenes. And for all the human drama, Jackson never adds any relevance at all. The 1976 remake wins on that score; it's about corporate greed and the danger of environmental destruction, neither of which are touched on here. This film's strengths are artistic genius and emotional heart. And it's also colossally entertaining.

cert 12 themes, violence, suspense 4.Dec.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... King Kong Donna Carter, Wisconsin: "Definitely gets fingers and thumbs up from me -- but then, what else does one expect from Peter Jackson? It was really quite well done! My only complaint was the constant same expression of combined confusion/bewilderment ending in conniving manipulation that was always on the face of one character (Carl Denham, played by Jack Black) throughout the whole movie. But that's so paltry compared to how extremely well-made the rest of the movie was. Mr Black's frozen facial features were just a negligible irritation. (Jackson did the same thing to Elijah Wood, who always had that hurt/pained look as Frodo in LOTR)." (17.Dec.05)

King Kong Stephanie, Surrey: 3.5/5 "So was it just me that found this absolutely hilarious from start to finish? The relentlessly overblown dialogue was entertaining enough in itself, but best of all was the fact that every conceivable cliché from all the cheesy romantic movies you’ve ever seen was employed in the relationship between a woman and a giant gorilla. The beautiful girl steps out of the mist for a tender reunion with the one she loves - was I the only person thinking how great it would be if he bit her head off? The backstories were mostly unnecessary and several of them drifted off unexplained, leading me to suspect that there’ll be a seven-hour DVD extended edition that fills us in. All the hallmarks of terrible self-indulgence by a man working on a long-cherished project and clutching so many Oscars that no-one could gainsay him. A shame, as there’s a good two-hour film in there somewhere: Mr Jackson (and, for that matter, George Lucas and JK Rowling) urgently need to learn that sometimes less is more." (3.Jan.06)

© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall