Written by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens
& Peter Jackson
Directed by Peter Jackson
Running Time: 3:07
for frightening adventure violence
and some disturbing images.
King Kong was a good, but not great, action-adventure film that left me a little disappointed.
Filmmaker Carl Denham is in trouble. His pictures don't make any money and his latest venture is about to be sold off as stock footage. But he's got a plan. He's found this map that leads to the last untouched place on Earth: Skull Island. His plan is to make a movie and incorporate the island so that the world will stand up and take notice. He hires young Ann Darrow as his female lead, along with the dashing Bruce Baxter, and famed playwright Jack Driscoll. Along with the crew of the SS Venture, they set sail for Skull Island. But the island isn't as untouched as they had hoped. Along with very restless natives, Denham and company find a land that time has forgotten, where everything is, in a word, supersized. Giant bugs, lizards, birds, dinosaurs, and oh yes, one really giant ape.
I've never seen the original movie, so I didn't know what the story was, beyond the general idea. But what I did know going into the movie was this: it was King Kong and it was directed by Peter Jackson. Jackson of course is the mastermind behind the hugely successful and brilliant Lord of the Rings films. So going in to King Kong I had high expectations and unfortunately, they were not met. The movie wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as I had hoped. My biggest problem was the special effects. There were times where they looked absolutely horrible and that became a very big distraction for me. One sequence in particular was just awful and it makes me wonder if the film was rushed to release. It was the scene with the dinosaurs chasing the crew through the island. It was so obvious that the scene was greenscreened that it made me wonder if anyone could believe it was happening. The Lord of the Rings was remarkable in its effects wizardry, and seeing how the same effects house was doing King Kong, I figured the effects this time out would be even better. But there were a lot of scenes that just looked bad and as I said, that became a huge distraction. That being said, there were a lot of effects-driven scenes that did come off pretty well, and the giant ape himself was extremely well done. Kong was amazing to look at. His personality was as clear as day, whether he was angry and yelling, or happy and laughing. His love for Ann was very apparent, and you could see how he wanted to keep her safe. He may have only thought she was a toy, but there was genuine affection there, and the CGI was top notch in showing that. His battles scenes with the dinosaurs were so good it was shocking to see how clear the violence was. And his famed battle on top of the Empire State Building was incredible to watch. I almost felt like the animators spent so much time perfecting Kong that they neglected to fill out the rest of the movie.
With a running time of just over three hours, I felt the movie could have been cut down some. The opening of the film to the point where they get to Skull Island took almost an hour, and at least half of that was unnecessary. Then there was this side story with two characters, one a first mate and one a former stowaway, that served no purpose as far as I could tell. The two of them seemed to care for each other, and the first mate took on a big brother/protector role, but why? Why should I care? All it did was lead to cheesy lines that were meant to be serious, but instead got a laugh. And the love story between Ann and Jack was nice, but I never saw why it happened. She liked him because he was a good writer, but he only liked her because... she liked him? Because she was hot? Why would he risk his life, on more than one occasion, to save her? I understand this movie is mostly about Kong, but the rest of the story should at least make sense.
There were parts of the movie that were meant to be funny and elicit laughs. Jack Black's character was so over the top in wanting to make a great film, just about everything he said was funny, especially since it was Jack Black saying the lines. But there were moments that were groanfully funny that weren't meant to be. One in particular was towards the end of the movie when Kong is in New York and running rampant through the city. Ann rushes through the town to meet him, and we see her, alone, walking down the street and backlit. It was a moment that you'd expect to see if she was going to meet a man, not a giant gorilla. I know she had affection for the ape, and felt sorry he was taken away from his home, but it almost looked like she was in love with him, and that was going a bit too far.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, with all that being said, King Kong was still for the most part a fun movie. Once the action gets going, it really gets going. You're thrown into the middle of a sacrifice and then the mighty Kong appears and all hell breaks loose. There are some truly horrifying moments, including the aforementioned sacrifice scene and anything to do with giant bugs. The scenes with Kong were all pretty amazing from the initial time you meet him, to all the times he's running through the jungle, getting into fights, and then running through the streets of Manhattan. While I was disappointed with the special effects in other parts of the movie, at least Kong was done right.
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