Boy meets girl, girl meets incredibly large ape, boy looses girl. It’s the oldest story in the world – or at least for the past 70 years – and the king of the modern epic – Peter Jackson – does one of the best remakes with his version of King Kong.
Despite going in with great expectations of the film, I actually came out of seeing it without any drop in enthusiasm for it. This is a rare feat indeed, as most of the time films tend to fail in meeting such loft expectations (see my review of The Producers…) Which is possibly why the films that you don’t expect much out of end up surprising you (the recent version of The Italian Job comes to mind…) The fact that it was once again set in the original’s time period (with even a throw-away joke about Fay Wray thrown in) probably was the best foundation for this version’s success. The Great Depression – a period in time where most people would risk their life to make a buck. Just the reason for Carl Denham (Jack Black) to risk life and limb – and not just his own – to find Skull Island. But you can trust him; he is a movie producer after all… And that is ultimately what Anne Darrow does.
And now, for a slight digression away from the plot. Anne Darrow is played wonderfully by Naomi Watts (and what big hairy guy wouldn’t want her to fall for you – ape or not!) Now for the life of me, I could not remember ever seeing her in anything before. Consider my amazement, whilst reviewing her CV on the IMDB that I had seen her before – and had really liked it too! She was Jet Girl (pictured, left) in that fun little 1995 comic-book romp Tank Girl! Apparently nothing ever came about for her co-star in that film…
And speaking of co-stars (nice segue, eh?) While Adrien Brody, Jack Black and even Kyle Chandler are good – it’s her titular co-star that gets quite an upgrade this time around. And while the ape is all CG, it did have the benefit of a real ape-like creature – Peter Jackson’s stock creature mapping actor, Andy Serkis (who also doubles as Lumpy, the ships cook!) With a real person behind the giant ape, we get some emotion out of this tale that wouldn’t have been possible in the 1930s. We also get some (as the kid’s will be calling it) “Monkey-Style Kung-Fu” out of this over-sized simian.
Which leads me to a content warning: This movie is violent at times. Kong will gladly tear through any large and extinct reptiles for his Anne. Those same reptiles have no problem stampeding tiny little humans either, who also make good meals for leeches, spiders, cockroaches and other insects of unusual size! But that’s nothing compared to what the humans do…
In the end, Anne falls in love with Kong. Is it merely a case of Stockholm syndrome, or can it be true love? And (unless you’ve been living under a rock for the better part of a century) Kong falls for Anne – literally! The climb up the Empire State building, and the fight with the bi-planes (six! Count them – six bi-planes!) is there and better than before. The rest of society is just not ready for Woman-Ape love, and so they have to shoot it down.
In concluding, I cannot end without commenting on the wonderful technical work of the film. New York of the 1930s has never looks so good, even in the midst of a depression. The detail in creating a city that long since has cocooned and metamorphosed into what we know it today, has got to win all the accolades and awards possible for it. And the various references to the original film – from the earlier mentioned Fay Wray line; to the use of the original Skull Island set, costumes and music for the Beast of Broadway spectacular; and even the fact that Peter Jackson plays the same part in his film that Merian C. Cooper (director of the original King Kong) played in the original!
Great fun for all, and worth the full price admission. Be warned, it is three-hours long. So make a trip to the restroom about 5 minutes prior to the published start time. You may still need to go in the middle – so you may want to do that during the pit of spiders bit, if you are so squeamish!