2005
Rated: PG-13 for violence, and horrific imagery.
Genre: Fantasy Action Adventure Thriller  Drama Romance
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Running Time: 3:08
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 3/12/06
KING KONG (2005)

 

Yes, another remake. And, yes, an important remake to arguably one of the best films ever made. Peter Jackson takes "King Kong" a timeless classic from 1933 and remakes it bigger, larger, and louder. And he's very faithful to the original story (98 percent). While many feared this remake thanks to Dino DeLaurentis and his often trashed, now camp classic 1976 version of the Kong tale, Jackson goes back to the roots of the story, and what made it so damn good, and brings it to modern audiences. Though nothing can ever top the original film, and all of its novelty, Jackson's remake is pretty damn good. Damn near excellence at times as well.

Both films, the 1933 original and this 2005 remake are hallmarks of their time. The original had Ann as a submissive damsel in distress doing nothing but screaming, while Jack is the manly man; meanwhile the remake has Ann as a spunky and somewhat independent woman who tames the beast, and Jack is the sensitive, conflicted, but heroic character. But regardless of how many times you remake this film, in the end Ann is still the inadvertent femme fatale, and Kong is still the poor sap who sacrifices everything for her. What always intrigued me about the Kong story, is that Darrow, whether she knew it or not, was the beginning of the end of King Kong. In the climax, as he falls from the Empire State Building, you have to wonder that perhaps he was better off being alone. Because, as all noir, and basically anything in pop culture goes, the female is always the end for the male. And in this case, the mighty King Kong is brought down by Ann Darrow, whether she ever realizes it or not.

You may already know the plot to this, so I'll spare you, but Peter Jackson--who is on the way to become the new Cecille B. Demille--accomplishes yet another task taking the story of Kong and implanting it three times its size as a three hour epic that really does entertain. Hey, I won't lie. I'm in love with Naomi Watts, I want her to have my children, and I think she's a wonderful actress who is capable to attacking any role with her sheer talent--but she can't take the place of Fay Wray. Though, Watts is in fact very good as Darrow she lacks the utter charisma and sex appeal Wray defined in the original film that made her a pop culture icon. Though Watts is utterly beautiful, this version won't do a thing to make her the icon that Wray became, and in spite of having a role that only consisted really of screaming, Wray still tops her. And sadly, Black and Brody are miscast. Brody is not the hero type, no matter how sensitive they make Driscoll, I always pictured someone else much more different in terms of range and charisma. And Black, I just expected to jump around and bulge his eyes at us. He's hard to take seriously, and that's not what I want to see in an action thriller.

And in a vain attempt to add much more depth, we see the most meandering, and tacked on subplots I've ever seen that were there, if for nothing else than to pad a story that didn't need padding. Did we really need to care about the captain, the first mate and his young apprentice? I don't care, just show the damn central characters. Jackson, for some reason, feels its important to add back stories to the sailors, and even spends an obscene amount of time on their chemistry and interplay, and especially takes time to focus on the character of Preston, Denham's assistant for some odd reason. Give me a break. Had he chopped down those sub-plots, the film would have been shorter. And Jackson's special effects are also never perfect as we sometimes see pixels within the CGI, especially in one scene where Ann is hanging from a log, and a T-Rex is slowly sneaking up on her. I asked around if anyone else saw it, and they did. It couldn't be a DVD defect, it was a noticeable defect that should have been corrected.

Jackson's set pieces which keeps the story in the thirties really captures the feel and dread of the great depression. There are some wonderful set pieces which help to influence the story for the audience, for instance Skull Island, which Jackson uses as a mood piece, but also as an explanation as to why there's only one giant ape on the island. Are the rocks that look like skulls oddly formed rocks...? Or giant monkey skulls? Kudos, Jackson. This version of "King Kong" takes the same atmosphere from the original, making it a fun, and exciting but smart action adventure that really does show how good film can be when people put their minds to it. And Jackson is never afraid to add menace, as when the crew is attacked by giant bugs.

But, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens excel at showing more emphases on the characters and Kong in particular. Ann Darrow is a gorgeous and stunning Vaudevillian performer struggling to eat, and then learns how to love, when Kong comes along, Jack Driscoll is a struggling writer who goes along only because he has to and then falls for Darrow as well. Jackson turns the beast loves woman concept in to beast loves women who loves man love triangle that really managed to work, and worked incredibly well. When Kong breaks free from his chains and jumps on to the balcony spotting Driscoll and they look in to each other's eyes, you can almost feel Kong saying "You! You're the one standing between us!" And, I really liked the symbolism of having Driscoll a writer behind bars in the ship writing his ass off. Jackson really displays the thankless work of a writer and his feelings of imprisonment and slavery in a job.

And most of all, Kong is improved upon. Sadly, as much as I loved the original film, Cooper was a little short-sighted in terms of creating Kong as an individual, and Jackson picks up the slack with this same but different Kong. Kong is old, he has war scars, he has a sentiment, and he bears more of a presence. Here Kong is more expressive, more alive, and more demanding. And Andy Serkis, quite possibly the best actor in years that we rarely see, is excellent as Kong. He gives some amazing gestures and movements as the giant ape, and adds a new sense of character to him. Kong goes here from falling in love, to fighting off man made monsters, to protecting her from man.

He is a king in search of someone to love, and he's all by himself. He fights for his girl, and Jackson gives us some of the best on-screen battles in years. The battle with the T-Rex' was incredible, not only  because how well it's shot, but because it's Kong proving himself to Ann, the mate of his choice, after being humbled and embarrassed only moments earlier. And then as all allegories, man becomes the monster, and Kong must protect Ann from them, but not before Jackson tugs on our hearts with some beautiful sequences of them together in the city, and the heartbreaking climax. Jackson succeeds in paying homage to one of his favorite films.

Though it's overblown in the supposed perfection that everyone shouts with a limp first half, tacked on sub-plots, and oddly flawed special effects, it's still an excellent film. With great computer imagery, a fun story, amazing action, and wonderful human drama, it's a very good remake. But Kong 1933 is still King, baby.

  • When Carl and Preston are thinking of actresses and discuss Fay and how she is working for RKO, and Carl declares, "Cooper--I should have known." They referring to Fay Wray the original star, RKO the studio that released the original film, and original director Meriam C. Cooper.

 

 

 


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