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"King Kong" Movie Review

Time for Only One Year-End Movie? It's a No-Brainer – Go See "King Kong"

By

Kong and Naomi Watts in the dramatic adventure, "King Kong"

© Universal Studios
Go see this movie. Don’t even bother to finish reading this review. I won’t be insulted. Turn off your computer, pack up the family, and fork over the money to see this extravaganza now. Don’t wait for it on DVD. It won’t be the same, no matter the size of your TV or the power of your surround sound system. “King Kong” needs to be seen on the big screen where you can immerse yourself in Peter Jackson’s brilliance.

Peter Jackson proves that his success with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy wasn’t a fluke (as if anyone really thought it was). He’s mastered the art of special effects to such a degree that it makes watching effects-heavy efforts by other directors pale in comparison.

Jackson had almost an insurmountable task helming this “King Kong” remake. Not only did he have to deliver a believable Kong, the filmmaker had to bring T-Rexes and other dinosaurs - along with some of the creepiest looking bugs in movie history - to life, knowing full well every frame of this particular movie was going to be dissected under a microscope. No one’s willing to let him slide by just because this is his passion project, the film he feels he was born to direct. With a budget that surpassed $200 million, a lot is riding on the success of Jackson’s “King Kong.” All I can say is that it’s the smartest investment Universal Pictures has made this decade.

“King Kong’s” story is pretty basic. A movie director gets his funding taken away, hires an unknown pretty actress off the street, and ships off with his crew to an uncharted island to make his film. Once on the island, the film crew and the ship’s crew are set upon by natives (in this film the natives look like stuff nightmares are made of). Ann Darrow, the lead actress, is offered as a sacrifice to a 25’ tall ape who is eventually won over by the young lady’s charm and beauty. Rescued from the beast by the screenwriter, the rest of the movie crew and the gang from the ship trap on Kong. They transport him back across the sea to New York where he’s put on stage as the 8th Wonder of the World. That doesn’t last long as he escapes, finds Ann, and ultimately faces off with the military who want the big ape dead.

I felt like I was doing a skit from “Saturday Night Live” on the way home from the screening. “Remember the part where…” started most of my sentences. There’s so much to see, almost too much in the case of the Kong vs. T-Rexes sequence (just remember to breathe and you’ll make it through unharmed). The stunning effects include better dinosaurs than Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park,” Skull Island’s lush vegetation, and a New York straight out of the 1930s. Even the water effects, which are usually the toughest CGI effects to get right, flow seamlessly onscreen.

I’m scared to death of heights and my palms were literally sweaty and my heart was racing as Kong and Ann Darrow climbed the Empire State Building for the final showdown. Sitting in a theater watching a CGI ape and Naomi Watts share a moment on top of building affected me physically. I’m not ashamed to admit I had to look away because the illusion of height almost made me dizzy. Visually, “King Kong” has no equal in its genre.

Kong acts and reacts like the real thing. Jackson stayed away from giving the great beast human characteristics. He also made this Kong a weathered adult who’s getting up in years. He’s beat up, as if he’s seen more than his fair share of brutal fights. His fur isn’t sleek and shiny clean. His face is battle-scared. He doesn’t smile, wink, or display traits not found in real gorillas. Yet he and his Ann interact in meaningful, emotionally touching ways. It’s a fine line Jackson walks and he does it all so perfectly you almost forget Kong isn’t a living, breathing animal.

I wasn’t sold on Jack Black as the lead in this but he manages to hold his own in most scenes, although he does go a little overboard with the crazy eyes. Andy Serkis (the talented man who made Gollum seem like a flesh-and-blood character in “Lord of the Rings” and who does the same as Kong in this movie) provides some much-needed comic relief. Adrien Brody, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler, Thomas Kretschmann, and the entire cast get into the spirit of the film. But this is Naomi Watts’ and Kong’s movie and together they create magic onscreen.

Peter Jackson’s lovingly crafted a good old-fashioned cinematic tale that runs audiences through the entire gamut of emotions. You may even shed a tear at the ending, even though you’re fully aware of the eventual outcome before the big ape ever leaves Skull Island.

One word of warning: you may want to skip the soda before and during “King Kong” because you will absolutely not want to miss one minute of this film. “King Kong” is without a doubt the movie event of the decade. It may be pushing it to call “King Kong” a masterpiece, but it is a movie that will stand the test of time and one that Jackson can compare with pride to the original.

GRADE: A

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