King Kong (2005) review
This is a repost of a review I originally wrote back in 2005.
The remake King Kong (2005) has been hailed by the critics as one of the best movies of the year. I’d argue that although King Kong is a good movie, it is by no means a great one. Parts of King Kong are brilliant and parts of the movie aren’t so brilliant. But the brilliant parts go a long way to making up for the not so brilliant ones.
King Kong (2005) follows most of the major plot points of the original (1933) – the crew of the ship “Venture” stumbles on a mysterious fog covered uncharted island. There, they find that gigantic creatures including dinosaurs and an ape known as Kong inhabit the island. When one of their crew is kidnapped and offered up as a sacrifice to the ape beast, the crew of the Venture must go into the deadly heart of the island to attempt rescue.
There were a few changes made to the characters. This time, filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) is in debt up to his eyeballs and sees filming on an uncharted island as the perfect location to finishing a movie he has partially complete and making a little money in the process. Ann Darow (Naomi Watts) is a struggling actress brought on the trip more for her dress size, the same as the previous actress who has dropped out of the picture, than her acting skills. Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) is the writer of Denham’s movie, and only goes on the trip when Denham tricks him into staying on the boat a few minutes too long while casting off in order to finish the script.
The most notable difference between the versions is the relationship between Kong and Darrow. In the original, Kong is a beast who holds onto Darrow as a prize not wanting to give her back. She wants to get escape the beast, but she is no more than a plaything to Kong. In the remake, Kong also kidnaps Darrow but their relationship changes throughout the movie; it evolves to something special, something different. Darrow comes to see the true Kong, a creature who’s the last of his kind all alone in this world, and understands him. Most interesting of all, one thing I thought while watching the remake was that the Kong/Darrow relationship was more in line with The Iron Giant and Hogarth Hughes in The Iron Giant (1999) movie than wild beast/helpless woman of the original.
Peter Jackson’s King Kong has a much darker vision of the world that Kong exists in than the 1933 original. In his version, Darrow is so down on her luck that she considers stripping for money. At one point, a member of Denham’s crew is killed execution style with a club to the head by the island natives. A crewman from the Venture is swallowed alive by a slug-like creature and goes down screaming.
And that’s one of the problems with the movie. It’s almost as if Jackson wants to present the story of King Kong as a fantastical adventure mixed with realism. In the fantasy King Kong, characters run in between the legs of stampeding Brontosaurus while being chased by velociraptor-like dinosaurs. These characters keep up with the stampede delivering on-the-mark perfect machine-gun shots to the dinosaurs chasing them.
Then, though, Jackson seems to want to switch gears showing the “realities” of Skull Island. Characters are so frightened they cry, one of the characters is graphically speared by a native and as Kong searches out Darrow in downtown New York he chases down women matching her “look” and tosses them aside like rag dolls when he does not find her.
I’m not sure these two competing styles work together. At one point we’re to believe in the fantastical, the next the realistic. It’s a tough sell and I’m not sure Jackson is able to pull it off.
But what really hurts King Kong are several rather large plot-holes present throughout the story. These holes do detract greatly from the movie overall and I would chalk these up to either sloppy writing, bad editing or bits of the movie being cut out to cut down on the already long running time. However, even though there are problems with the overall story and mood, the character of Kong is magnificent. He is a joy to watch and acts and looks, for the most part, like a real ape. He becomes a real character. And I think that’s a very important quality here – in the confines of this movie Kong is real. When Kong dies at the end, it is a sad moment and not a relief as in the original. I would expect that by this point people would have become so emotionally involved with Kong that they might cry at his death.
I just wish that Peter Jackson could have delivered more emotional attachment with the rest of King Kong (2005) as he did with the last twenty minutes of the movie. (8/10)