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KING KONG (PG-13) (2005)

Universal Studios

Official Site

Director: Peter Jackson

Producers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Jan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham

Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson; story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace

Cast: Andy Serkis, Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks


I’m being told that I need to fess up to not having seen the original, or for that matter any, King Kong production. What I have seen are the inescapable pieces of Americana that tell you the story of such a popular and powerful classic. For example “The Simpsons” did a King Kong, which basically gives you the plot (Anyone remember the gag about women and seamen?) if you had never encountered anything about it before. While I’m giving you background, allow me to say that I can identify with any primate large or small. I look at my own slightly furry arms, think about my lips jutting out in a circle and making a “hoo hoo” sound, and cannot help admitting that I’m 98% chimp. This has led to the discomforting conclusion that civilization is nothing more that a glorified zoo where the inhabitants must fend for themselves. I see a monkey in everyone—especially The Monkees—so don’t think you’re anything special because of your large brain, vocal chords, or philosophical ventures. If someone took away your pretty (living) doll, you’d scream and pound your chest, demanding retribution for violating clearly marked territory and stealing your (living) property.

The story has a depressing start. It’s the Depression, and nobody can seem to make ends meet. Even a solidly entertaining vaudeville act (I loved it) fails to give Ann Darrow (Watts) the money she needs to eat. She must go out and beg for an audition in her favorite play, but is instead re-routed to places of burlesque. Carl Denham (Black) catches a glimpse of Ann as she turns away from said burlesque institution and must have her for his latest production. Quite literally, he must, because his other leading lady has R-U-N-N-O-F-T. Such are the troubles of being a renegade film producer. He persuades Ann to join his cast because he has her favorite writer, Jack Driscoll (Brody), working on the script. Denham sleazes everyone around him into giving him what he needs to make his movie, and they’re off to film the greatest adventure movie ever made on an uncharted island called Skull Island. Why he believed his silly map is beyond me. I guess he had a serious case of Inspirado.

That’s the first third (fifth?) of the movie. We all know the rest. However, Peter Jackson decided that he really needed to make another trilogy, since LOTR went so well. The first movie is getting to Skull Island and meeting the natives, who introduce Ann to Kong. The next movie is breaking into Skull Island, rescuing Ann, and capturing Kong. Apparently, 1 broad equals roughly 20 sailors. The last movie in this flick involves the ever-famous escape and last stand at the top of the Empire State Building. Peter Jackson does such a great job crafting a good movie that he just does too much of it. He doesn’t realize that some of the dialogue is trite, hackneyed, or otherwise silly. I don’t know how vital some of the lines were, because Pete definitely wanted to stay true to the original Kong, but some of it just seemed as gay as Samwise and Frodo making sweet verbal love to each other.

On the plus side, everything else about this movie rocked the motherfucking house. The monkey that played Kong was the best actor in the whole film. He really knew how to receive direction, and better yet, was domesticated enough to not devastate the entire crew. The T. rexi he fought were also talented. Whoever trained all the giant monsters in this film really deserves some enormous kudos. Some say it was CG, but I think Kong was actually played by a 30-ton gorilla with some quality make-up. The rest of the denizens of Skull Island were fantastically animated (giant apes and lizards I can believe, but huge lampreys and crawlers and the like are clearly virtual). The choreography of Kong’s fight against three T. rexi really blew me away. I found myself tensing up with excitement as Kong kicked some serious ass, even if he was kicking human ass. Jackson created the greatest nonhuman character in cinema history.

Someday, he’ll figure out how to make the greatest movie.

—Duncan Wright

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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