Wednesday, December 28, 2005

King Kong


Grade: A-

Peter Jackson’s last endeavor, The Lord of the Rings, was a fantastic three-part series that is among the most exciting and best-told stories ever created.

His latest picture, King Kong, is also told in three-parts. But while LOTR had clear separation — there were, after all, one year in between each of Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King — Kong has three distinct parts thrown together in one three hour movie.

The result is a terrific picture that does something rare — it combines amazing special effects with quality acting and a solid story.

You should know walking in what happens, even if you haven’t seen the previous movies. Everyone has a picture in their head of Beauty in Kong’s gigantic hand or of Kong at the top of the Empire State Building. But getting there is so much fun.

The first hour is everything that leads up to Skull Island. We open in 1933 New York City and catch a glimpse into the lives of struggling actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), whose stage show has been shut down and considers turning to burlesque for work, and film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) who has just screened an atrocious movie to his producers. He claims he has a big idea, however, and produces a map that shows the location of a previously undiscovered island. He wants them to pay for the trip and he’ll film a movie there that is sure to be a hit.

That doesn’t go so well and Denham ends up rounding up Darrow, star actor Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler), screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and the film crew onto a ship he’d had set up to leave that evening.

They eventually end up on Skull Island, despite protests from the ship’s crew. You’ve seen the previews and should have an idea of what happens here walking into the theater. Still it doesn’t take away from the action and excitement.

Native people attack and try to sacrifice Darrow to Kong, but he takes her into the jungle and they end up bonding. The rest of the crew going searching for her discovering that Kong isn’t the only dangerous giant animal out there.

Eventually, Kong battles some of these creatures to protect Darrow and those are some amazing scenes.

Obviously, Kong doesn’t get to the top of the Empire State Building without being captured and that leads to the final act: Back in New York.

There, Denham opens a show that will feature a shackled Kong and is the hit of the town. Of course, all heck is going to break loose.

The movie is fantastic from start to finish. There’s a slow build — I’ve heard others compare it to Jaws that way, and that makes some sense. You get to know enough about the characters to care a little about all of them once they get on the island.

The entire island sequence is terrific and the battles between Kong and the other creatures — as well as the fight between the humans and the giant species late in the act — are amazing to watch, especially on the big screen.

NOTE: I like that we’ve all become such experts on dinosaurs because of the Jurassic Park movies. I don’t want to give too much away, but Jackson clearly leans on some of our knowledge about the T-Rex and raptors to help us know what is going on. I found that interesting as I watched things develop. ... Also, I wanted to post this foreign poster below because it is truly fantastic. Check it out:


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