King Kong - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Introduction To Peter Jackson; Post Production Diaries; Kongs New York 1933; The Natural History Of Skull Island.
EYEBROWS were collectively raised when Lord of the Rings director, Peter Jackson, announced that his follow-up project would be a remake of Merian Cooper’s classic movie monster hit King Kong.
A reported budget over-spend of $32 million did little to dampen suspicions that, perhaps, Jackson had bitten off more than he could chew.
King Kong has subsequently gone on to become the most expensive movie ever made – costing a record $207m (£116m) – but boy has the money been well spent.
Cooper’s beast was dubbed ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ when it was first brought to New York at the end of the 1933 original and it’s fair to say that Jackson’s remake is a wonder unto itself.
It is a colossal achievement and one of an elite number of films that can genuinely say it has everything – from jaw-dropping special effects to edge-of-your-seat excitement to tear-inducing emotion.
It is a blockbuster with heart; an event movie that knows just how to engage its audience and keep them utterly enthralled for the duration of its three hour running length.
Jackson’s gift as a director is that he has the confidence to take his time as a story-teller – if he does something, he does it properly and there are no half-measures here, no pandering to Hollywood executives.
Having struck box office gold with Tolkien’s trilogy and winning the keys to Oscar’s Academy, the New Zealander has been given free reign to entertain and does so in spectacular fashion.
King Kong was the film that first inspired him to become a director – it is his cherished project.
And that labour of love is beautifully realised from the opening moments set in a Depression-era New York to the thrilling Skull Island sequences.
It is 55 minutes before audiences arrive on the island and a further 15 or so before Kong makes his first appearance.
Prior to that, it is all about character building – from Naomi Watts’ emotionally fragile Vaudeville performer, Ann Darrow, who is desperate to find work, to Jack Black’s over-ambitious director, Carl Denham, who exploits Ann’s situation to lure her to the island for his latest movie venture.
Along for the ride are Adrien Brody’s frustrated writer, Jack Driscoll, who becomes infatuated with Ann’s intoxicating vulnerability, as well as a ship’s crew including Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis and Thomas Kretschmann.
Jackson ensures that each has a back story so that their fate holds some resonance with the audience.
Once at Skull Island, however, the film shifts gears considerably, turning into a rollicking action-adventure that succeeds in delivering one stunning sequence after another.
Ann is at the centre of it all, of course, after becoming kidnapped by the island’s natives and being offered as a sacrifice to Kong, a giant gorilla who is the last of his breed.
Rather than killing her, the beast becomes fascinated by her beauty and the two develop an unlikely bond, sharing some strikingly tender moments together in between tussling with the island’s more dangerous inhabitants.
It is during this middle chapter that Jackson’s film really, really sets new standards.
Kong may be a special effect but you never doubt he’s real – not for one moment.
He is fierce yet playful, powerful and tender and the complexity of his emotional range lends the film an extra dimension.
His time spent with Ann is enthralling, whether it’s sitting back with her to watch a sunset on the horizon, or wrestling three T-Rexes to prevent her from being eaten (the latter is a scene of astonishing bravado).
By the time Driscoll reclaims her and Kong is lured back to New York as Denham’s ‘eighth wonder’ the bond between them is unshakeable – and the stage is set for the tragedy to unfold.
But even then Jackson conjures some genuine moments of movie magic, the highlight of which is a sequence set on the ice on a frozen Central Park lake.
In lesser hands, it could have seemed awkward and mawkish, yet Jackson gets the sequence just right, imbuing his picture with a child-like wonder that makes what follows all the more heartbreaking.
Kong’s final tussle is an awe-inspiring affair – technically impressive, rousing (as he swats at the military’s bi-planes from the top of the Empire State Building) yet unbelievably sad. There won’t be a dry eye in the cinema come the finale.
Yet such is the exhilaration of watching such an astonishing movie that you’ll probably be queuing straight away to see it again.
And therein lies Jackson’s genius in recreating a classic that has become a masterpiece of its own.
The superlatives really do run dry for this one.
Running time: 187 minutes
- Buy the 2-disc special edition
- Peter Jackson interview
- Naomi Watts interview
- Andy Serkis interview
- Watch Kong take on the T-Rex and red carpet footage
- King Kong roars supreme at US festive box office
- King Kong off to 'slow start' in US
- King Kong world premiere
- Watch the trailer and clips