King Kong review by The Grim Ringler
Ok, so the first question is why? Why did they make this, why did they RE-make this? Well, if you ask a stalwart traditionalist, no, of course not, and I cant argue with them. There is rarely a need for a remake. Theyre usually just proven moneymakers for the studios. And thats fine because some of the remakes are damned good. With a movie like King Kong, yes its a classic, but its one that can be explored again as this isnt a drama, this was a special effects film. Effects have advanced and its been a good many years since the original, so why not? Do we need it? No. But should they have not done it? Why? Id love more original work from Hollywood but if each remake got the care and love that this one did, wed all be better off.
Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is a beautiful young stage actress stuck working vaudeville because during the Depression, no one has money to spend on the theater. Suddenly out of work she takes a chance on a devils bargain offered up by low level film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) will she take the lead in his next picture, a picture that will pay her well and may make her a star? The catch is that the picture is shooting in Singapore, which is a lie Denham has told all involved but his assistant. The film is to shoot on an as-yet undiscovered primitive island called Skull Island. Denham believes that this will be the perfect location for his next film, a love story, and may bring some surprises to his picture that will make people need to see it. But when his lead actress, his script writer Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody), and the rest of the crew find out where they are headed, and that their benefactor Mr. Denham is wanted by the police for fraud, none are willing to go through with his film any longer. Unfortunately for them they find out too late as they are already in the deadly reefs of the island and seem doomed to find out what secrets this hidden island holds. When the film and landing crew are attacked by the savage natives its clear this is not an island they should be spending any further time exploring but when Ann is kidnapped by them as a sacrifice to the god of the island there is no choice but to try to save her and escape with their lives if they can. What they find is an island that time has forgotten, where dinosaurs and things that should never exist anywhere but in hell run free and where a giant gorilla has taken Miss Darrow as his prize to devour as he has the other sacrifices before her. Using her skills as an actress Ann endears herself to her captor and sees in him something he has never been able to show before, a kind and gentle side that has always been superseded by his need to survive on this dangerous island. He is the king of the island yes, but he has paid a heavy toll for that crown.
After much peril and danger Ann is rescued, but as she is rescued, Kong, the ape, is captured to be put on display in New York as the eighth wonder of the world, and it breaks Anns heart for them to do it, as her captor has become someone she pities and suddenly trusts with her life. When Kong is finally revealed to the people of New York, on a stage before hundreds of people, he is defeated, a captive in every way. But he is still a king, and as such, he will not give up without a fight.
The most beautiful thing in this film, beyond the technology, is the story, a story that takes what had been created by the original and has fleshed it out into a touching and sad story of doomed love. And no, this is not about sexual love, or any sort of connection like that. This film is about true, pure love, if ever there was such a thing. Ann loves Kongs soul, a soul he shows her reluctantly but which, when shown, he cannot hide from her. He has never had someone who wished to be with him, or who cared for him, and when she does, his guard is down and he is doomed. And yes, its sad that Kongs fate is inevitable but then, isnt this brief love, this brief touching of souls worth his life, which had been miserably alone?
But yes, the technology is very, very impressive. Kong is astounding, and that they have, with the help of Andy Sirkis (who was Gollum in the Ring films), created something that feels real, that acts, and that, in its eyes, breaks your heart when its own heart is breaking, is remarkable. The monsters are scary, the city and island are breathtaking, and, as a whole, its a tremendous work of art. What I hope is that people dont come into this film thinking its more than it is which is a fantastic, old-fashioned adventure film. This is as close to Indiana Jones as we have had since the last film was released and its fun to see a movie that means to do that and succeeds on that end. Yes, there were movies like the Mummy films that wanted to be adventures in the old vein but, well, they stunk. Director Peter Jackson knows how to use special effects to move a story and to serve a story, and thats a key here. The performances are generally very good, though Blacks Denham seems to have been miswritten a little. I love that hes the true monster of the film, but he seems to have been written and thus portrayed as a bit of a selfish lout, and thats it. And thats fine, but the film seems to need him to be more of a villain than he is. Watts and Brody are terrific and really create two people who seem to truly care about one another. The story too takes twists and turns in ways that expand the original but that doesnt try to show it up. And if anyone doubted that this was the work of one of the finest directors in the business, take a look at the ending of this film, and the way it plays out and then tell me that.
The biggest issue I had is, yes, its a long movie. I love that its long, and we get the time to know this world, but there are moments where it feels self-indulgent and not like its serving the plot. I think much of the Skull Island stuff could have been saved for a special edition where the time could have been spent exploring the island in more depth. Does this detract from the film? Not really, but it will try the patience of filmgoers. There too are moments that are a moment too long, and create a touch of melodrama. Again, I had no big problem here but if you get the wrong crowd theyre just going to tune out before the scene is over. This is a pure work of love and adoration, and as such, it could have been trimmed back, but then, its rare that you get a film full of such passion as this one, and, if its a little long, I can live with that if we get the ending that we get. To think that they created such a sad, touching ending with one actor in a mock-ape suit, well, thats something incredible.
I have to be honest - I had expected to love this film. Hell, I bought the production diaries earlier in the week which are pure fun if you like Peter Jackson but in the end, I really, really liked it. I didnt love it. Perhaps that love will build over time, but for now, I just thought it was a great movie, though not the best movie I have seen. I hope that people see it and that cynics like our own Fuersty will give it a chance and get past the effects, but I doubt that will happen. This is what it is a remake of a classic. I think it will become a near classic in its own right some day, but for now, it stands as a beautiful love story, and a fantastic adventure. And for me, it was worth the wait.