I’ve been loving my time with the big gorilla thanks to my exploration of the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, and it was time for me to have a look at director Peter Jackson’s epic-sized remake of the original film.
Featuring a grittier New York than the one in the original, the film attempts to ground as much of its first third in reality, as well as expanding the roles of the main and supporting characters, so that when things really take off when our heroes end up on Skull Island, it’s more believable.
The film has a really strong cast. The luminous Naomi Watts plays Ann Darrow, a struggling actress who would love to find work, and some day be in a Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) play. Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a director, a bit of a maverick and wild card, who convinces his studio to finance his latest picture. Stumbling across Darrow, he offers her the lead role, something she is reticent about it, but hearing that Driscoll is writing the picture, signs up immediately, and joins the crew, as the head into the unknown.
The cast also includes Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis (pulling double duty as ship’s cook, and as Kong himself), Jamie Bell and Kyle Chandler as movie star Bruce Baxter, who gets to ham it up a little and is a lot of fun to watch.
The film is filled with gorgeous effects and great design, which helps to bring the film to life. There are some complaints that the film may be overlong, as well as occasionally self-indulgent, but the padding of the characters, expansion of the story, actually makes for a fuller experience, and Jackson makes sure to pay homage to the original film, but having all of the major beats included, and expanding on them nicely.
The film has some great moments, cribbed, of course, from the original, the dinosaurs are there (but so many more of them), there’s the log sequence, Kong taking on the tyrannosaurus (a trio of them this time), and of course the chase, and final confrontation in New York.
I love the fact that the movie Denham is shooting, featuring Ann and Bruce uses dialogue from the original film, and there are more nods than that, little throwaway bits of dialogue, and moments…
But most of all, I love the fact that for the first time, King Kong moves like a gorilla and feels and behaves like a real animal. And the level of detail on the computer-generated creature, with Andy Serkis’ performance being motion-captured, is incredible!
After having worked my way through a number of Kong films, I can honestly say that I really enjoyed this one, and put it just slightly below the original in terms of my enjoyment of it.
It’s probably not for the average movie-goer who wants a quick popcorn experience, though it does have a lot of blockbuster moments, this one is more a love letter to the era, and to Kong specifically.
It’s a nice way to end my time with the character as I move onto the next bunch of titles…
What’s your favorite version of the story?