King Kong (2005)


Starring Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Jack Black, Naomi Watts

Directed by Peter Jackson

Going into one of the biggest and most anticipated films of all time, it is hard to gauge if the hype will sway your judgment or not. Will you be disappointed because your expectations are so high? Will all of the big budgeted hype machined films that came before it that didn’t deliver have your expectations lower? I’m never quite sure where my head is at going into a film like this so I just sit back and try not to think about it too much.

Remakes always scare me, especially when helmed by one of my favorite directors because it makes the failure all that more hard to take (Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes anyone?). Well, the good news is that King Kong rocks. Sure, it’s a bit longer than it needs to be at just over three hours running time, but there is so much action when this film kicks into gear that it doesn’t seem that long. There was something about seeing the film in New York City, where the film’s climax is set, that made it all that more special.

Most of you already know the story of Kong so I won’t bore you with the plot break down. Jackson takes the original and gives you everything and more. He even gives a little nod to his classic film Dead Alive. I don’t want to spoil it but when Adrian Brody is being led to his quarters make sure you check out the names on the cages they pass.

I admit at first I was a little worried about the casting of Jack Black as filmmaker Carl Denham, but his over the top personality worked very well with his character in the time period the film is set in, much like Johnny Depp’s performance in Ed Wood. Naomi Watts is an actress that I have never really thought much of in the past until this film. She gives a performance as actress Ann Darrow that shows an amazing amount of range and versatility that I had no idea she was capable of. Adrien Brody also turns in a top notch performance as writer Jack Driscoll. One of the standouts in the film was the purposely campy performance by Kyle Chandler as ego-maniac actor Bruce Baxter, who is the lead opposite Ann Darrow in Denham’s film. He has a sort of Bruce Campbell quality about him that serves his character perfectly. And of course you can’t overlook actor Andy Serkis, who plays not only the biggest role in the film (hint: he’s a monkey) by way of motion capture and vocal performance, but he also appears onscreen in a rather sizable role as Lumpy, the ship’s cook.

The CGI Kong effects are, in short, amazing. I’m not a big fan of CGI at all, but all of the Kong effects looked near flawless. Some of the other effects combined with live actors didn’t come off quite as well, and one scene in particular when the character of Jimmy (Jamie Bell) is being chased on the side of a cliff took me out of the film a bit. That’s my biggest gripe about CGI: I don’t want to sit there and start pointing out things that I think look fake. I want to be sucked into a film’s fantasy world and never look back until the end credits roll.

So is King Kong a horror film? Should we be reviewing it here at The Horror Channel? The answer is a big YES. This is one of the first and greatest monster films of its time, and even though at its heart King Kong is truly a love story, it has more than its share of scares. One thing that surprised me the most about Jackson’s version was how violent it was; Kong doesn’t pull any punches with its edge of your seat thrills. There’s very little blood but a whole lot of death that will shock most filmgoers and delight even the most hardcore horror junkies.

Making a film that combines so many different elements from drama, comedy, action, horror, suspense, romance and so on is no easy task, but Peter Jackson pulled it off perfectly. King Kong will not disappoint fans of the original and will motivate millions to take a look back at the classic that started it all. Merian and Ernest would be proud.

4 ½ out of 5

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