Thursday, December 23, 2021

#2,681. King Kong (2005) - Godzilla / Kong Mini-Marathon


It’s hard to argue with the critics who attacked this special effects extravaganza; 2005’s King Kong is, indeed, too loud, too long (the runtime is listed as 180 minutes, with a director’s cut that features and additional 20 minutes), and downright exhausting (when the dinosaur stampede sequence had played itself out, I was ready for a nap).

But writer / director Peter Jackson - guided no doubt by his love for the Merian C. Cooper / Ernest Schoedsack original - pays tribute to 1933’s King Kong while at the same time giving this update a personality all its own.

Jack Black is at his smarmy best as the deceitful but oh-so likable Carl Denham, who hires (or should I say steals) a steamer and heads to a remote corner of the Pacific to make his newest film. Tagging along with Denham are writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), struggling starlet Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and ship’s Captain Engelhorn (Thomas Kretschmann), as well as a few technicians and the motley crew of Engelhorn’s steamer.

Of course, there’s more than an exotic locale waiting for them at their destination, aka Skull Island: there’s also a village of savage natives and the “God” that protects them, a 25-foot gorilla they call Kong.

Those familiar with 1933’s King Kong know where the story goes from there.

I will certainly concede that many of the film’s action sequences are over-the-top (especially late in the movie, when the story shifts back to New York), as is the “romance” between Watts’ Ann and Kong (though quite touching at times, it’s again a case of “way too much”).

What saves the movie from being little more than an overstuffed remake is the portrayal of Kong himself, a combination of CGI and the performance of Andy Serkis (who was Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series and also plays Lumpy, a member of Engelhorn’s crew in this film). By way of motion capture, Serkis infuses the character with personality to spare, making him terrifying one minute and heartwarming the next (the scenes on Skull Island where Ann is trying to communicate with Kong are the best in the film).

I doubt I’ll return as often to Peter Jackson’s King Kong as I do the 1933 classic (I even prefer the 1976 version to this more modern take), but as hundred million dollar spectacles go (its budget was reported being just north of $200 million), I’ve seen worse.
Rating: 6 out of 10

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