King Kong

After scaling to the top of the movie world with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is only fitting that Peter Jackson return to the movie that started it all for him, King Kong. Jackson's (The Return of the King, The Two Towers) saw the original as a child, and that instilled in him the wonder of film. The rest is history. Today, technology is a bit further along than 1933, allowing Jackson to work visual wonders with the original story. Jackson's King Kong is eye candy, but he goes a bit overboard on the CGI, a few miscasted roles, and the running time, which is slightly over an epic three hours. Still, King Kong is a good remake, and an enjoyable romp that wouldn't seem out of place in the crowded summer market.

The story is the same, and adapted by Jackson and his frequent co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens (The Return of the King, The Two Towers). Jackson takes his time telling it (King Kong doesn't show up until a little over an hour into the film). King Kong does not feel padded, but it does sometimes unfurl leisurely. Filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black, Shark Tale, Anchorman) leads an expedition to Skull Island where he discovers and traps Kong after the kidnapping of Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts, Stay, Ellie Parker). They return to New York, where Kong rampages his way up to the top of the Empire State building.

King Kong's greatest asset is technology. Kong looks much better than he ever did (Andy Serkis, 13 Going on 30, The Return of the King provided the basis for Kong's movements), and can now convey emotion. Jackson succeeds in bringing a greater depth of emotion to Kong than before. He is more than a monster, and he truly cares for Darrow. Nobody sees this except for Darrow, whose initial horror turns into something deeper. The emotions and reactions that Kong displays are enough to evoke sympathy from the viewer. He is a supremely misunderstood creature. Less successful are the CGI dinosaurs. It feels like Jackson is trying to cram as much as possible into Skull Island, including a brontosaurus chase that lasts a bit too long. And before the crew gets to Skull Island, Jackson spends time delving into Denham's efforts to cast and create his film. It's interesting, but not truly necessary for the story.

Watts is the one actor here who succeeds in her role. And this is especially difficult given the fact that most of the time, she was acting to something not there. The other actors are not as good. Black works as Denham in the first two thirds of the film. He brings his sense of subversive comedy to the director, who will make his film at all costs. Black tosses out a few one-liners that bring some levity to the proceedings, and in a sense, one cannot help but compare him to Jackson. Both are driven directors with grand visions who are determined to make their movie. Black falters when the script turns more serious, forcing him to do dramatic dialogue. Black has yet to take a completely dramatic role, and from his work here (especially at the end), it is clear he has some work to do. On the other hand, Adrien Brody (The Jacket, The Village) has found success as a dramatic actor, but doesn't quite work here. Jackson even goes so far as to preface that most people think leading men are dashing, handsome, and not writers (Brody's character writes the script for Denham's film).

But these gripes are small. King Kong is a fun movie, albeit not as monumental as something from The Lord of the Rings. Technically, the film is superb, but all the special effects in the world cannot make a great film. Jackson was counting on bringing Kong to life which he does visually. Emotionally, King Kong does not always connect. There are some tender moments between beauty and the beast, but also some fairly outdated native stereotypes, and weird scenes of frolicking on ice.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
3 hours, 7 minutes, Rated PG-13 for frightening adventure violence, and some disturbing images.

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