In remaking King Kong, Peter Jackson has done something incredibly impressive. He not only brought more heart to the classic tale, but he also did it with incredible visual style and incredible characters. Kong has never looked better, and there is almost seamless CGI used in his creation. I say almost, because at times, we can easily tell that the titular ape isn’t really there, which, apart from the film’s gargantuan running time serves to be the only major issue it has.
The story really comes in two parts. The first involves a journey to a magical island that nobody has ever been to, yet a film director/producer/writer/cinematographer named Carl Denahm (Jack Black) has managed to acquire its whereabouts. The studio executives have decided to scrap his latest feature, yet he’s determined. He hires a woman off the street, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), he gets his crew together on a ship that’s used to capture wild animals like rhinoceros and elephants. There are too many named characters to state at the moment (at least four), but I’ll try to get through them as the review goes on.
First and foremost is the ship’s captain, Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann). I liked him. He had more personality than some of the other characters. He also had more sense in some instances. When others wanted to press on in this undiscovered island, he wanted to go back and make a run for it on the high seas. His first mate is a man maned Ben (Evan Parke), who has a strange relationship with one of the other important members, Jimmy (Jamie Bell). It’s almost like a father-son relationship here, and it would have been nice for us to get even more depth about it.
Arguably the biggest name actor in the film is Adrien Brody, who plays a writer named Jack. He falls for Ann almost the second that he meets her, and will end up playing a pivotal role when she gets captured by the 25-foot gorilla (spoiler alert!). Eventually, everyone ends up on the island. It turns out, natives live there, and they’re savages. They kill an unnamed member of the crew before being pumped full of bullets. The crew decides to head back to the boat, which is currently trapped against some rocks.
In the middle of the night, the savages steal Ann and realize that sacrificing her to “Kong” (motion capture work done by Andy Serkis), the titular ape. He takes the sacrifice, but instead of killing her like we’d expect, he keeps her as his pet for a while. Jack, so in love with her, decides to lead a search party out into the wilderness to rescue her. Carl tags along to film everything we see, holding his camera closer to his chest than Kong does with Ann.
On the island, they encounter all sorts of things. This island, apart from the natives who stay behind a “100 foot wall,” has not being interacted with since the dinosaur age. Since apparently nothing can touch what nobody knows about, dinosaurs still exist, and a lot of time and effort is spent rendering all sorts of dinosaur. There are also giant bugs and all sorts of other weird creatures, leading to a ton of interesting interactions between them and the humans, usually ending up bad for the humans.
I mentioned two parts, but I’ve only told you the first part so far. That’s because the second, which takes up about the last 45 minutes to an hour of the film, happens in a different location and has a very different tone. I don’t want to tell you what happens if you have no idea about King Kong‘s story from one of the previous iterations. I will say that it involves love instead of adventure, and is also quite emotionally involving, something I wouldn’t have thought going in.
When you finally see the giant creature — which I’d like to mention doesn’t happen until around an hour in — you’ll probably be in awe of how incredible it looks. It almost looks lifelike, and the emotions that were able to be captured means its face ends up being its focal point. This works well, and it helps to give the “monster” life and a personality that you don’t go in expecting to see. By the end of the film, you care about him just as much, if not more, than the humans. This makes portions of the film very touching, as you’re wanting to see Kong get his way.
Visually, King Kong is a spectacle. It has amazing special effects that practically dominate every shot after the voyage to Skull Island begins. There is always something impressive to look at in terms of the effects, and this somewhat softens the film’s main problem: Its length. Now, I don’t have too much of a problem with the film taking more than three hours to tell its story, as I was always entertained, but I know that other audience members won’t give it that much of their life.
That’s too bad, as it’s just such a good film, but I’ve talked to people who either fell asleep or turned off the film while it was playing. It does take a long time to get to get going, and some specific scenes could have been trimmed, but overall, it’s worth the three hours it takes to sit through.
King Kong is an incredible film that is worth your time. I was in awe at many of the shots in this film, and when put together, we can an emotionally captivating film that is entertaining from start to finish, with very few moments when you’ll be bored. While it may be too long for some people, I was so invested in the story that I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time. Take that as a recommendation, as I’m often not one to like overlong films.