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King Kong
2005 - PG-13 - 187 min. Mins.
Director: Peter Jackson
Producer: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Jan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham
Written By: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler
Review by: Ben Samara
Official Site: www.kingkongmovie.com/
   
The selling point for Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of ‘King Kong’ was supposed to be the director’s undying love for the classic story. He saw the original when he was just nine-years-old, they said. From that day on, he was inspired to make movies for a living, with the ultimate goal of eventually bringing his vision of Kong to the big screen.

After his enormously successful ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, Jackson finally had the chance to make his dream come true. Unfortunately, while his motive was clearly to pay homage to Merian C. Cooper’s 1933 masterpiece, the 2005 version of ‘Kong’ often comes off as more of a parody. Jackson’s ‘Kong’ is superfluous in every sense of the word. It’s overlong, uneven and just plain absurd at times. Here, the king of the epic manages to tack on an extra hour and 20 minutes to a 1933 film that was only an hour and 40 minutes to begin with.

The screenplays for Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ films were buoyed by the richly crafted novels of J.R. Tolkien. This time around, Jackson should have enrolled in a class about writing concisely before trying to add mass to the 1933 ‘Kong.’

The basic plot follows filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) on a quest to make his finest picture. He’s been denied funding by the suits at his studio and he’s lost his leading lady, but he’s determined to finish the job anyway. He decides to make a break for it and hop on a ship with his crew, where they will unknowingly travel to the mysterious Skull Island.

The grossly miscast Black deserves a Razzie award for his portrayal of Denham. Robert Armstrong’s performance as the filmmaker in 1933 certainly wasn’t anything special, but he looks like Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart compared to Black here. Was there really no other actor in Hollywood who wanted this role, or was Black actually Jackson’s first choice. Either way, somebody made a huge mistake. Every time he’s presented with a line of serious dialogue, Black’s atrocious half-smiling, half-anxious delivery is laugh-inducing.

As Denham rushes to get out of town, he stumbles across the perfect leading lady. Ann Darrow (the always wonderful Naomi Watts), is a starving Vaudeville actress living paycheck to paycheck. After some negotiating, Denham finally convinces her to come aboard his ship and take part in his picture.

The first tedious hour of Jackson’s film follows Denham and his crew on the ride to Skull Island. On board the ship, a romance begins to bloom between Ann and Denham’s writer, Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). This could have been a key point to the film. Instead, Jackson’s meandering screenplay – which he crafted with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens – spends more time developing the personalities of throwaway characters. As a result, the relationship between Ann and Jack is never a believable one. In fact, it almost becomes a throwaway plot in and of itself.

By the time the ship hits Skull Island, fans of the 1933 film will already be wondering “was all that really necessary?” When we finally see Kong on the screen for the first time, though, it all seems worth it. At least Jackson and the special effects team at WETA got something right, because this version of Kong looks about as real as can be. Once again, Andy Serkis – who provided the motion-capture movements for Gollum in ‘Lord of the Rings’ – does an amazing job. As a result, Kong’s interactions with Ann look more real and lifelike than some of the actual humans. It would have been nice to get a few more of these scenes.

Instead, we get a five-minute long Brontosaurus chase sequence…

And a bunch of man-eating spiders…

And Kong vs. a batch of T-Rexes…

And Kong vs. a swarm of bats…

And Kong vs. just about everything else you can think of…

And on and on and on…

For a man who claims the original ‘King Kong’ inspired him, Jackson sure seems to think his inspiration was missing a few things. Scene after scene drags on ad nauseam, and after the initial awe of the special effects wears off, you just want Jackson to get over himself. He leaves every moment on the screen just a minute or two past its expiration date, as if to indulge himself in the grandeur of it all. To make matters worse, as each scene sits on the screen for an extended period of time, the flaws in the secondary special effects begin to show through. It’s comes as a relief when we’re finally granted a reprieve from our stay on Skull Island.

As the film heads into its third and final act, it begins to look like Jackson is going to redeem himself. It is terrifying to watch as Kong breaks loose and ravages the city streets of 1930s New York in search of his lost love. The digital city really shines during these moments. At times, you wonder if Jackson could have done as well if he were in that place and time.

But as Kong prepares to take his final bow at the summit of the Empire State building, Jackson reverts back to his excessive style of storytelling. It’s meant to be a tear-jerking and moving finale, but after 180 minutes of fluff, it’s just time for it to be over.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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