KING KONG (12/14/2005)
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis (as Kong)

My Rating: 10/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 84% Certified Fresh

PLOT: In 1933 New York, an overly ambitious movie producer (Black) coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to the mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady, Ann Darrow (Watts).

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[Continuing my tour of 2005…]

A cheesy screenplay, stupendous visual effects, breathtaking action sequences…James Cameron’s – sorry – Peter Jackson’s epic remake of THE classic monster movie may not have been the movie that anyone was clamoring for, but I, for one, am glad it was made. To me, it’s one of the great monster movies of all time, and one of the greatest adventures since Jackson’s own adaptation of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

To make things easier for myself, I’m just going to tick off the best points.

• The screenplay lacks any semblance of subtlety, but the dialogue is not exactly the point here. It serves its purpose. In fact, the best scenes that approach any emotional depth are the virtually wordless interactions between Ann Darrow and Kong.

• The visual effects are stunning. Even putting aside the spectacular action sequences, Kong himself is one of the great triumphs of modern CGI wizardry. Building on the technology used to bring Gollum to life, Kong’s movements and facial expressions are based on the motion capture performance by the man who really pioneered this new branch of acting, Andy Serkis. To watch Kong expressing, not just red fury, but also puzzlement, melancholy, happiness, even (for the briefest of moments) fear…to watch it happen, and to feel the character come to life, is awe-inspiring. You look in his eyes, and you see the mind behind them, working things out.

• The sequence that begins with Ann’s encounter with Skull Island’s version of the T-Rex, and which ends with Kong in single battle with said beastie, is the kind of thing we go to the movies for, or at least the kind of thing we go to THESE movies for. It’s pure blockbuster gold, and mostly without any music in the background. Blu-Ray/DTS bliss.

• Okay, yes, Adrien Brody would not be the obvious choice for the hero if the movie. But hey, in the film someone actually says something like, “The real heroes have lousy haircuts and a skin condition.” Or something like that. Which makes Brody, by that definition, hero material.

• True story: the first time seeing the movie in the theater, there were sniffles in the audience as poor Kong expires and falls to his death. (Did I ruin that for you? How did you THINK it would end?)

• The extended cut is not quite as good as the theatrical version. With the additional animal attacks, the movie would have been just too exhausting in theaters. (On home video, though, it’s cool to watch.)

• Now that you’ve seen the remake, find and watch the original. You’ll be amazed at how much of the original found its way into this new version.

In summary, “King Kong” is modern thriller moviemaking, with director Peter Jackson in peak form. Sadly (at least so far), he hasn’t reached this pinnacle again. But one can hope.

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