What do the words “King Kong” bring to mind? The 1933 black and white version where we see the mechanical King Kong atop the Empire State Building, clutching on to Ann Darrow, while fighting off the biplanes? Or does it remind you of the Universal Studios ride, where you experience King Kong shaking your tram as you get stuck in front of him? Whatever if reminds you of, I can promise you that the recent new release King Kong will give you a whole new perspective on who King Kong is!
Peter Jackson, the brilliant mind behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy, directs King Kong and I knew King Kong would also be a work of genius.
So, how was the movie?
I would say King Kong is one movie where the remake of the original is 100 times better. Many directors attempt to make remakes of old movies and fail miserably (remember Psycho and The Avengers?) King Kong actually takes the old movie, and infuses and embellishes it with more character, and given the special effects available today, enhances the characters and effects. Peter Jackson is a big fan of the movie, and so he made the new version out of his pure love and dedication for the movie, as opposed to those directors who have no genuine affection for subject matter.
Carl Denham (Jack Black, “Shallow Hal”) is a maverick filmmaker who is refused permission to make another movie after he fails to impresses his studio bosses. He seeks out a new actress for his new movie, which he plans to make without informing the bosses. Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts, “The Ring”), an actress, comes to her theatre one morning and realizes that the play has shut down rendering her unemployed. Out on the streets of New York, which by the way has been faithfully recreated into the 1920’s New York, Denham and Darrow have a chance encounter, and he convinces her to act in his new movie. The script-writer of the new movie, Jack Driscoll (Oscar winner Adrien Brody, “The Pianist”), is not convinced by the financing of the movie, and attempts to leave, but Denham maneuvers the situation that the three of them, alongside with the film crew and ship crew leave the dock. Denham proposes to shoot the new movie on an island, and mysteriously enough as they get lost, they come to what they call Skull Island, which is inhabited by human-sacrificing natives. Darrow is kidnapped by the natives and is offered to the beast on the island. Thus we get the first glimpse of the mighty beast himself, who snatches Darrow away and takes her away into the jungle. What follows is the attempt of the rest of the crew to rescue Darrow, as they battle various creatures and insects on the way, losing some members of the crew to the eventual rescue of Darrow. They bring King Kong back to New York and make money by using him on a Broadway show.
As in the old version, King Kong manages to escape and finds Darrow and climbs to the top of the Empire State Building, where we all know what happens.
So, how was the movie? In one word, brilliant!
It is more than an hour before we see King Kong make his entrance, and while the initial set up may seem slow to some, I think it was imperative to establish the human characters in order to understand their motives and reasons for their actions. A lot of people cannot fathom the concept of a woman falling in love with a huge ape. This movie establishes that concept so well, it becomes credible and believable to understand why she falls in love with King Kong. You see, Ann Darrow is a very sad person in reality. 1920’s New York is depressing, she is unemployed, she is hungry and she is asked by a friend to go to a nightclub and work as a stripper. She is hurt, and is extremely sad. When her meeting with Jack Driscoll does not go the way she expects to, she finds solace and company in King Kong with whom she establishes a rapport (like any person would with their pets!) Jack Driscoll is not able to express his love and affection to Ann Darrow, and that frustrates her, which is why she appreciates how King Kong plays with her, and keeps her in his hand, protecting her.
From an action movie, this turns into one of the biggest love story of the year. One particular scene of King Kong and Ann Darrow dancing on the frozen lake at Central Park is particularly romantic and heart-warming. By the time we come to the end, we have invested so much sympathy for King Kong that I guarantee you, not one heart will feel untouched by what happens. So how was King Kong himself? I tell you, the director has done a brilliant job of recreating a huge ape, which has a character of his own. Not for one second did I think that this was a digitally created ape, but was led to believe that King Kong was a real ape. The hand gestures, the body movements, and most importantly the facial expressions were awesome. One scene, where King Kong battles off three T-Rexes to save Ann Darrow, was amazing because after the battle, he looks away from Ann Farrow as she doesn’t say thanks to him. He also has a sense of humor.
This movie is already being considered for Best Direction and Best Special Effects at the Oscars. There are some moments in the middle of the movie where the effects look shabby, and some over-lapping is visible, but all the moments with King Kong helps you overcome the minor weak special effects. The effects were all done in New Zealand, and not in Hollywood, which may explain for the technicalities glitches in some special effects scenes. Verdict: 5 out of 5, for amazing effects, for credible story line, for one of the best created digital creature, for amazing set ups (King Kong and T-Rex battle, fighting off the planes atop the Empire State Building, the attack of the Spiders etc).
One of the best movies of the year! Bring out the DVD!