Monday, January 3, 2011

King Kong

King Kong; Fantasy adventure, New Zealand/ USA, 2005; D: Peter Jackson, S: Naomi Watts, Adrian Brody, Jack Black, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis

New York during the Great Depression. Actress Ann Darrow lost her job when her theater had to shut down. She meets adventure director Carl Denham who manages to persuade her to star in his new film which is suppose to be filmed on some desolate island in the Pacific Ocean. During the journey on the ship, she meets writer Jack Driscoll. The crew arrives on an unknown island where a giant gorilla, Kong, kidnaps Ann. The crew encounters Dinosaurs and giant insects yet manages to rescue her and bring Kong to New York. There, she gorilla dies by falling from the Empire State Building.

After a huge success with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (out of which only the third one was excellent), director Peter Jackson was given a free hand of making his dream project, fantasy spectacle "King Kong", a remake of the classic film with the same title that achieved a good box office result and was nominated, among others, for a Golden Globe for best director and score. The first third of the 3-hour film is quiet and plays out during the Great Depression in New York and abounds with realistic little details (a man finds a sandwich in a trash can and eats it; people sleeping on the streets...), Naomi Watts is great as the aspiring actress Ann Darrow, yet Jack Black almost steals the show here and there as the comical director Carl. However, that part drags slightly, especially in the boat trip segment, while the story flow seems mechanical and schematic. The second part is the point where the movie really picks up: once the dynamics starts, it offers a non-stop full hour of action and a juicy adventure tone with some virtuoso directed moments (i.e. the scene when Ann is slowly crouching away from Kong after pretending to be dead, shot in one take; Kong hanging from a cliff, holding her, but still managing to pull a Tyrannosaurus rex above him to glide down and fall).

However, some moments really do seem bizarre and eclectic. For instance, the aforementioned battle of Kong with three (!) Tyrannosauruses rex seems too far fetched. Fighting one or two Dinosaurs would be plausible, but three at once is definitely too much. Likewise, the often mentioned Brontosaurus stampede sequence is also problematic - at first, it really is fascinating: a Brontosaurus herd is running away through a small canyon, with the crew in their way. But once one of them falls and a dozen Dinosaurs trips over him and rolls over and over, the whole thing turns into a cartoon. Likewise, the scene where a giant leach eats a man's head doesn't contribute positively to the film, just negatively. The last third of the film turns the concept upside down and shows Kong in a "New York jungle", raising again some points about human greed, though the theme was already raised in the first film a long time ago. The special effects are fantastic. One has to hand it to Jackson: he made two things better than the original. For one, Watts and Brody are more "fleshed out" and charismatic characters than the two main protagonists in the first film. For the other, there's a better emotional attachment between Kong and Ann, especially in the touching finale. However, as time passes, the original "Kong" keeps the upper hand due to its charm.


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