King Kong (DVD, 2006, Anamorphic Widescreen) Reviews
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King Kong (DVD, 2006, Anamorphic Widescreen)

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King Kong... BIGGER, BADDER, & a Loveable Vegetarian (Kong Double-Feature Pt. 2)

Dec 14, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Jackson's Direction, Script, Special FX, Score, Look, Style, & Cast notably Watts & King Kong!


The Bottom Line: Peter Jackson's Remake/Homage of King Kong is An Amazing Masterpiece/Tribute to the Original Film led by Fantastic Performances of Kong & Naomi Watts.

In 1933, a movie that pushed the limits of special effects, action, and entertainment called King Kong about a giant ape who befriends a young woman only to be captured and terrorize New York City. Since its release, King Kong has become an undisputed classic movie that was beloved by the world. One man who loved the film so much was New Zealand director Peter Jackson who had dreams that one day, he would make a new version of King Kong while paying tribute to the original film. Then in 1976, producer Dino de Laurentis made a big-blockbuster version of the film that was not just trashed by critics for its writing and updated tone that makes the film seem dated but also losing sight on the true emotional impact of King Kong.

For Peter Jackson, he would hope to make a version of King Kong and do justice to the original picture. After making several cult films that had subjects ranging from zombies, ghosts, and fantasy-driven young girls, Jackson finally hit pay dirt when he did an ambitious and widely successful trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Using his knowledge of special effects with his longtime film crew including his wife and producer Fran Walsh and co-screenwriter Phillippa Boyens, Jackson achieved the impossible by making J.R.R. Tolkien's ambitious fantasy novel into three impressive movies where the third film The Return of the King won 11 Oscars including Best Picture and a Best Director prize for Peter Jackson. The huge critical and commercial success of the trilogy put Jackson into the stratosphere as it opened door to the dream project he wanted to make and with a $20 million paycheck, he decides to remake one of his favorite movies of all-time, King Kong.

Directed by Jackson with a screenplay by Jackson, wife Fran Walsh, and writing partner Phillippa Boyens, King Kong is a simple tale of a young woman who is taken to an island to shoot a movie where she is captured by a giant ape whom she befriends as the ape gets captured and terrorize New York City. Expanding the original story from a 105 minute film to a near three-hour extravaganza filled with new special effects and capture-motion style to create the movements of Kong. Jackson goes for all the stops to create not just a special effects juggernaut but convey a love story between a woman and beast. Starring Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Jamie Bell, Colin Hanks, Thomas Kretschmann, Kyle Chandler, Evan Parke, and LOTR cast member Andy Serkis in a dual role as a cook and as King Kong.

Itis 1933 New York City, and itis the middle of the Great Depression as a young, struggling actress named Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is doing everything can to entertain an audience. Then the local theater she works at is officially closed as she tries to find work, especially for a play by her favorite playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). Meanwhile in the same city, a film director named Carl Denham (Jack Black) is butting heads with studio heads as he and his assistant Preston (Colin Hanks) leave the building as Denham hopes to finish a film starring top actor Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler). After learning that his actress has left, he seeks to find a star even at the lowest place where he finds the image of Ann Darrow. After making a deal with her to join him on his trip to an island near Singapore, Ann decides to go after learning that Driscoll is writing the script.

Driscoll tries to leave to attend rehearsals for his own play but the ship leaves as he is stuck with Denham and his crew along with Captain Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann) and his first mate Hayes (Evan Parke). With Driscoll writing the script, Denham hopes to reach a mysterious island called Skull Island where eavesdropping is a young sailor named Jimmy (Jamie Bell) who tells Hayes. Hayes and a cook named Lumpy (Andy Serkis) know that the island is cursed. After Ann meets and becomes smitten with Driscoll, Englehorn learns about Denhamis destination as he tries to turn only to be sucked into the tides of the island. Denham, Driscoll, and Darrow with Denhamis crew enter the island where they reach a deserted village only to learn that itis the home of savages as a witch doctor haunts Ann.

After being kidnapped, Ann is taken for a sacrifice ceremony as she is captured by a giant ape named Kong. Denham, Driscoll, Hayes, Baxter, and Preston decided to go and find Ann with the young Jimmy sneaking to join them in their search for Ann. Ann at first, is afraid of Kong but only to learn that heis got a bit of a heart as she entertains him. After an attempt to run away, she comes across some dinosaurs. While Kong battles some humans and a three-on-one battle against three Tyrannosaurus Rex as Driscoll decides to go and try to save Ann. After the battles with T-Rexes, Ann sees the true, sensitive heart of Kong as she falls for him. When Driscoll finally retrieves Ann with the help of giant vampire bats, Kong goes after her wear he is captured by Denham and Englehorn with some chloroform. After Denham takes Kong to New York City for a big extravagant event, all hell breaks loose as Kong and Ann reunite where a climatic battle on the Empire State Building occurs.

If anyone was ever going to do a remake of King Kong and do it right, Peter Jackson not only manages to create a film version that is pumped up with steroids in terms of action but also bring a lot more heart in its emotions. It's not that the original version had a lot of emotions, it's just that Jackson and co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens just changed the relationship of Kong and Ann to the point where the audience roots for them. Still, it's Jackson doing an homage to the film where there's so many references to the original film from a few scenes of the original film and since it's set in 1933, they even mention the late Fay Wray (who played the original Ann Darrow) doing a picture for RKO (the studio that released the original King Kong). It's not just a great remake and homage, if the original creators and actors of the film see this, they would be extremely proud.

While the screenplay is wonderfully structure to build the momentum in the first act of the film, the second act pays off with enough action, drama, and humor with the climatic third act. For those who have seen the original film or heard about it will know what happens but that doesn’t matter since it's the end that brings the emotional payoff. Jackson as a director brings a lot to the table in terms of capturing the heart of the film, especially putting a few moments between action sequences where the audience can relax. Using elements like slow-motion, slow frame speeds, and all sorts of camera angles, Jackson goes for broke in what he wants to do as he also puts in a reference to the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad that Jimmy reads on the ship. In the end, it's still about King Kong where he dominates in every scene he's in including one hell of a fight scene against three T-Rexes.

Helping Jackson in capturing his ambitious vision is a group of people who are his regular collaborators. Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie captures the beauty of Skull Island and its darkness in the tribe, sacrifice scene with some great, beautiful sunlight and the scenes of 1933 New York City. Production designer Grant Major does amazing work in the production of the tribe village scene along with the re-design of 1933 New York City and the play scene that pays tribute to the original Kong. Helping in the visual department, especially in the re-creation of those cities is visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri who manages to bring in every brick of the old New York City.

Costume designer Terry Ryan also does great work in capturing the 1930s clothing, especially the dresses for Ann Darrow. Another longtime Jackson collaborator who works in terms of creating special effects and creatures design is Richard Taylor who does amazing work in the creation of the creatures, especially Kong. With some great editing, including jump-cuts from longtime editor Jamie Selkirk along with Jabez Olssen the three-hour film doesn't move slowly or too fast but it has a nice, tight pacing. Sound editor/designer Ethan Van der Ryn also does some amazing work in the film's sound work. Composer James Newton Howard (who was a last-minute replacement for Howard Shore) does a great job with the composer to bring the tension and drama of the story while even adding samples of Max Steinberg's original score.

Finally, we have the film's amazing superb cast that not only do great performances but also bring a lot of references to the original film. With some nice, small but memorable performances from Lobo Chan as an Asian crewman, John Sumner and Craig Hall as Denham's film crew, and Andy Serkis in a hilarious performance as the creepy cook, Lumpy. Evan Parke is excellent as the experienced sailor Hayes who not only knows the troubles of the island but serves as a mentor for the young Jimmy. Kyle Chandler is also good as the vain actor Bruce Baxter who epitomizes all the acting styles of the actors of the times who realizes he has to be a hero in real life in the end.

Jamie Bell is excellent as the young, naive Jimmy who is a kid that wants to try and be a hero only to learn the true value of courage, especially in a devastating, emotional scene. Colin Hanks is also good in a role as Denham’s assistant who becomes the unlikely moral conscience as he sees Denham's descent into madness. Thomas Kretschmann is really great as Captain Englehorn who is more concerned about his crew while being another moralistic character who is more ambiguous about his own legend that is revealed by Denham. Jack Black is hilarious and wonderful as the megalomaniacal Carl Denham who starts off as a crazy, ambitious film director who wants to make a great movie only to become more obsessed with money as he sees Kong as a huge attraction only to become aware of his own madness. Adrien Brody is also great in his role as the calm, intelligent Jack Driscoll who tries to become a hero only to realize that heroics doesn't make you a great person as he tries to come to terms with everything including his own desires to be a simple playwright.

The film’s best human performance clearly goes to Naomi Watts in what is probably her most ambitious and heartfelt performance to date. Watts carries the film with such gracefulness while paying tribute to the late Fay Wray. Throughout the film, Watts goes through a lot of multi-dimensional areas to her character whether it’s doing comedy, 1930s stylized acting, or doing romantic, dramatic scenes. Even in many of the action sequences, Watts put a lot of work into her performance physically, mentally, and emotionally. While she manages to have great chemistry with the film’s actors, her best scenes is with King Kong. She conveys an innocence and warmth to the role while she seems to be the only one understanding him. Watts even breaks hearts in very emotional scenes when Kong is being harmed, especially in the climatic moment at the Empire State Building where she feels what the audience would feel.

Finally, the best performance of the film aside from Watts is King Kong itself. Revamped and evolved from the 1933 stop-motion animation to a computerized, digital animation with modern capture-motion performance done by visual effects man Joe Litteri, creature designer Richard Taylor, and on many of the movements, Andy Serkis who does the same technique when he played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The big ape is a character that everyone can fall in love with since he starts off being this ape who doesn’t know any better except beating up creatures and things only to learn the love and peacefulness that he sought for. When he and Ann are watching the sun together, it’s a magical moment and the scenes where their eyes meet, it’s very touching. There is never a moment where this giant ape captures the heart of his audience and it’s a truly magnificent performance for this giant ape.

In many respects, it wouldn't be fair to say that the new King Kong is better than the original yet it's in the original film where Peter Jackson pays homage to. He wasn’t trying to make a better version of the film but instead, if you get those two films together. It would be one hell of a double-feature. After his brilliant work with the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, Peter Jackson is truly becoming an amazing director who has the power to make a great blockbuster while being a true storyteller. Something that George Lucas wishes he could be. Thanks to some great special effects, great references to the old film, some technical genius, and a great cast led by Jack Black, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Adrien Brody, along with Andy Serkis in the role of Kong and Naomi Watts in a performance that is deserving of the Oscar. In the end, watch the original first and then be blown away by Peter Jackson's new version as King Kong will truly remain the first true cinematic superstar.

King Kong (1933):

Peter Jackson Reviews:

Dead Alive (1992):

Heavenly Creatures (1994):

(Coming Soon)

LOTR-The Fellowship of the Ring (2001):

LOTR-The Two Towers (2002):

LOTR-The Return of the King (2003):

Recommend this product? Yes

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