Merian C. Cooper’s original interpretation of “Beauty and the Beast” is brought to life once again, in this, the 3rd rendition under the original name King Kong. This time Kong is brought back to life through the eyes of visionary director Peter Jackson. Jackson, fresh off the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has established himself as one of the most gifted directors in science fiction. His cinematic use of scenery and special effects has been rewarded with three Oscars over his career. He was a shoo-in for this project, and its success is directly attributed to him.
In this remake, we return to Merian Cooper’s original plotline. It seizes the opportunity to fill in the gaps in storyline that were acceptable in the 1933 original, while adopting some of the themes from the 1976 remake as well. The main attraction, Kong, is no longer a “monster”, he is merely an oversized gorilla. Jackson embellishes the relationship between Kong and his captive Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), taking it to new levels while maintaining a believable admiration between the characters. It seems Jackson had learned a thing or two by spotting the errors apparent in the previous two versions.
Kong learned a thing or two also… people suck!
Similar to its predecessors, there is a long buildup before we actually see Kong. But in this remake there are enough elements to keep the audience interested. The plot buildup feels nothing like the tedious 50 minutes of boredom in the ’76 version.
In this, Carl Denham (played by Jack Black) is the ambitious movie director, the character based entirely off the real life persona of Merian C. Cooper. Along with his screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and his right hand man (Collin Hanks), they lead a mangy crew in search of the mythical uncharted “Skull Island”.
Just as this is the 3rd remake, this is my 3rd review of the King Kong plotline, so let me pretend you read the other two and spare you the long repetitive storyline. In short, Kong touts the beautiful Ann Darrow around the island that time forgot. Lovestruck Jack and crew follow to rescue Ann but encounter the terrors of the island. In this version, the island is basically Jurassic Park… not the park itself but the island next to it, if I remember correctly, that they used in Jurassic Park 2 and 3. The “monsters” are all preexisting dinosaurs… except Kong of course, the fully evolved giant gorilla.
Jackson isn’t known for his “crossover” films
Jack rescues Ann, and the crew kidnaps Kong back to New York City to display him to the world. He escapes and terrorizes the city until he recaptures Ann and retreats to the top of the Empire State Building where mankind corners him with planes. The film ends with Carl Denham’s famous line, “Not the planes… It was beauty that killed the beast.”
The effects in this film are breathtaking. Every last detail was immaculate. It was clearly made for HD, and it’s a true “remake” of the original that uses state of the art technology for a new interpretation of the story. They successfully brought the 1930s back to life… just without all the prejudice and sexism we like to pretend never existed.
“WE ARE THE REAL 1%, now pleeease make me a sandwich”
Although they decided to make Kong “lovable” again as they did in the 70s, this time they succeeded in doing it. Mimicking the admiration between a “real” ape and its handler, or in terms we better understand, the love between Matthew Broderick and Virgil in Project X. The love between Kong and Ann was believable and far superior to the 70s version which emphasized sexual intent and a “whole lotta rape talk”
“Grape Ape? Oh, he’s my cousin, I’m Rape Ape… All aboard!”
The mutual admiration between Ann and Kong is very believable; Adrien Brody doesn’t stand a chance. (Not sure why he would want her anyway? Chick’s got A LOT of baggage, and I believe in those days when therapy was simply a lobotomy or a chocolate chip cookie).
The acting of the entire cast is excellent. Surprisingly, Jack Black’s performance stands out by bringing humor and tenacity back to Carl Denham.
The remake embraced the original and respected the classic for what it was. They even used scenes from it as the movie Carl was filming aboard the ship. An actual line from the original was the “script” of Denham’s movie, creating a paradox that induced an unwarranted acid flashback for an unnamed critic that just sat through three King Kong movies.
The cinematography was amazing. Every panoramic view seemed realistic down to the detail in the blades of grass. The dinosaurs were convincing in motion and in terror. This film utilized CGI for everything it’s worth, and in turn, as it normally does, the overuse of it was its downfall.
Despite the visual superiority of this movie, its downfall was complicated to pinpoint. In part it was due to the abuse of CGI in creating the creepy-crawly creatures that produce the “gore” in the film that the 70s version chose to avoid. Another part was the overdone eeriness from the natives. They were a ghostly, cannibalistic tribe that could have starred in a horror film without the need of a giant monster. Combining the gore from the insects and the nightmarish disfigured natives, this film has trouble establishing itself in a genre. The giant ape story on the prehistoric island is an excellent adventure story we want to share with our kids. Unfortunately, the goddamn tribe and decapitating worms gave the kids nightmares and post traumatic stress syndrome, and now we sleep on the couch for our “lapse” in judgement.
I wouldn’t mind the horror movie gore if they stuck with Cooper’s original Kong and made him a man-eating monster. Then go for it! The more gore the better; I’d want dinosaurs eating everyone. But since the entire movie is revolving around falling in love with a giant gorilla, the “horror” aspect is actually a hindrance to its final outcome.
An outstanding interpretation of an American classic. Confused by the “genre jumping” between adventure and horror, this film shot for the moon and came up a bit short. Fans’ hopes of seeing a revived “Eighth Wonder of the World” were broken by having all of the monster taken out of this monster movie. But don’t let that deter you from experiencing this greatly entertaining film, which is an excellent remake of the classic monster movie of the 30s.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime Carl Denham lies
Take a Drink: every time Ann screams in horror
Take a Drink: every time Kong pounds his chest
Down a Shot: every time Carl Denham honors a dead man by pledging a lie
Down a Shot: if you spot the skeleton of the dead giant gorilla (Kong’s wife?)