Peter Jackson proves that his success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy wasnt a fluke (as if anyone really thought it was). Hes 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 ones 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 Jacksons King Kong. All I can say is that its the smartest investment Universal Pictures has made this decade.
King Kongs 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 ships 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 ladys 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 hes put on stage as the 8th Wonder of the World. That doesnt 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. Theres so much to see, almost too much in the case of the Kong vs. T-Rexes sequence (just remember to breathe and youll make it through unharmed). The stunning effects include better dinosaurs than Spielbergs Jurassic Park, Skull Islands 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.
Im 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. Im 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 whos getting up in years. Hes beat up, as if hes seen more than his fair share of brutal fights. His fur isnt sleek and shiny clean. His face is battle-scared. He doesnt smile, wink, or display traits not found in real gorillas. Yet he and his Ann interact in meaningful, emotionally touching ways. Its a fine line Jackson walks and he does it all so perfectly you almost forget Kong isnt a living, breathing animal.
I wasnt 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 Kongs movie and together they create magic onscreen.
Peter Jacksons 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 youre 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.