2005: Year of the Kong. For the third time in seventy years, a giant ape thunders to a theater near you, brought to you by the guy with Lord of the Rings on his résumé. Most everyone should at least be somewhat acquainted with the story; a film crew goes to an island to shoot an exotic film, a giant ape kidnaps the young starlet and falls in love with her, and then the film crew captures the ape and brings it back to New York City where it escapes and rampages through the streets. You can get all that in the trailer in case you missed the original. The film does not really stray from the original story, but it is a damn good retelling.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong is a hellacious and passionate film that will squash cynicism, raise blood pressures, and frighten children. I admit I was one of the skeptics because I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by the trailer. I thought it showed too much of Kong, the CGI looked like overkill (HULK FLASHBACK!) and the snippets of jungle chases had me expecting to see The Even More Lost World. Jack Black is a pretty funny dude but by no means is his tubby mug enough to get my butt in the seat. Then the buzz picked up, and then skyrocketed, and I began to think my gut feeling was actually the undercooked Digiorno I polished off the night before. It must have been the pizza because Kong rocks. It succeeds in being all those superlatives you see in advertisements. It is funny, sweet, tragic, thrilling, brutal, and sometimes it’s downright fucking scary. I don’t know where they found those people who play the natives, but they are going to haunt little kids for years. Some of the creatures the party encounters on Skull Island had women around me squealing, probably just like they did seventy years ago. I was fairly quiet, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to squeeze my ass cheeks together a few times to avoid shitting my pants. The action sequences on Skull Island are just stunning. It’s been a long time since a movie gave me that rollercoaster ride feeling. This film is violent, too. Don’t expect blood and guts, but there are some disturbingly awesome deaths. I don’t know what you have to do to a dinosaur to get an R rating, but Kong must have come really frigging close. King Kong has balls when it comes to the action. I can imagine the Universal execs in the screening room, cringing and asking, “Can we cut that?”
Jack Black turns in a good enough performance. I scratched my head at this casting choice like I’m sure a lot of people did, but smartly he leaves his “stoner with a sudden burst of energy” antics at home and plays Carl Denham pretty straight. There are times when you expect him to jump on a table and play air guitar or something, but he does okay here. I doubt it’s a coincidence they cast a guy with a similar build as Mr. Jackson himself – short, chubby, and incredibly handsome. He gets some good laughs without resorting to typical Jack Black stuff. Naomi Watts does a lovely job as a Thirties dame, and she really shines in the bonding scenes between her and Kong. Adrien Brody is subdued and looks a little bored sometimes, but he gets by in his first blockbuster. Kong himself looks fantastic. WETA does a great job of keeping his classic look and making him and his movements realistic, even when his whole body is in the frame and he’s bounding around breaking stuff. His facial expressions exceptionally convey a surprisingly wide range of emotions for a gorilla. It’s those close-ups of his eyes at certain moments that made me feel for the big guy.
A lot of love went into the making of King Kong and it translates to the screen beautifully. There is not much to be said in the way of criticism. If anything, the three hour running time could have been trimmed a bit. Sometimes I felt like I watched the same shot like three or four times in a row. Another problem is that the Skull Island sequence is so great that it’s a tough act to follow, and it overshadows the New York City sequence a little bit. I admit my mind drifted a bit when Kong was loose in the Big Apple. That’s when I started thinking…hmm, King Kong doesn’t have a penis. Man, he should have a whopper. Watching that big old thing swing around would never get old. It could even take a few people out. And when he was on top of the Empire State Building, I was thinking how sweet it would be if he took a big dump on New York City. A giant falling turd could take out like a whole platoon. Sorry, I’ve gotten off track. King Kong is an event film that won’t suck when you watch it on DVD. Jackson has once again conquered the holiday season with a fiery adventure romp that should entertain just about everyone.