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:: King Kong

I’ve always had a liking to King Kong, having seen the 1993 and 1976 films, and was eagerly expecting this new version by director Peter Jackson. He had always indicated a fondness for doing such a film even before the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. After watching this three-hour film, I am glad Jackson took this on because he clearly puts his stamp on it spectacularly.

The film opens in 1930s New York, in the midst of the Great Depression. A stage actress, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and her theatre group try to hold their production, but it proves to be too tough. A director, Carl Denham (Jack Black), is meanwhile trying to convince a movie studio to provide him with money to complete his new picture. He has a map to an unchartered island, a place where he wants to sail in order to complete his so-called masterpiece. The studio doesn’t think much of his plans and cuts him off. Denham pursues his goal of going on this journey anyway. After his leading lady drops out, Denham meets Ann and convinces her to come for this journey as his lead actress. Playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), whose work Ann has long admired, is also found on the boat as it takes off under the helm of Captain Eaglehorn (Thomas Kretschmann).

They eventually set sail to Skull Island where they discover natives who end up taking Ann as a sacrifice for a giant gorilla…Kong. The crew decides to stay and save her and the rescue mission becomes much more than they first realised. As in the original classic, the action builds towards an eventual capture of King Kong who is then brought back to New York to be displayed. It culminates in his escape and famous scene atop the Empire State Building.

The story follows the original film pretty well though Jackson puts his own embellishments. The first part of the film is a means of introducing the characters. Then, once on the island, the action starts to hot up. Kong appears after about an hour, but there is soon a stampede of excitement. Jackson throws it wide open with killer zombies, dinosaurs, a giant bug, bats, gunfights, and lots of human sacrifice.

The effects are mind-blowing. The re-creation of 1930s New York and the scenes on the ship are excellent before the fantastic action sequences take hold. King Kong looks amazing – seemingly real and natural. The huge T-Rex battle with Kong is incredible and a major highlight. The escape from the island with Kong coming to New York is also stunning filmmaking. King Kong has a lovely scene at Central Park when the beast sees ice for the first time. His stomping through New York streets and his convincing climb up the Empire State shows brilliant effects.

The expressive features of Kong and his loping walk are well executed and his emotional companionship with Ann is simply majestic. Check out the scenes on top of the Empire State with he and Ann – it is something else.

The acting performances are generally very good. Naomi Watts is charming and is well suited to the role. Jack Black and Adrien Brody are good too, though Black perhaps forces himself a little too much. Peter Jackson has created an incredible film with outstanding aplomb, to follow those 1933 and 1976 epics. It sits up well and he wisely used some of his Lord Of The Rings crew. The score is also very good and the three-hour running time should not deter viewers because it didn’t even seem that long. This is easily one of the most impressive and enjoyable films of the year.