SPOILER WARNING!! - This review assumes you know the basic presmise or story line of King Kong; including the ending. If you'd rather be surprised, come back after seeing the film. If this is you, what planet have you been living on?
Hands down the best film of the holiday season; and AFI is absolutely justified in placing it on their ten best films of the year list. I might place it in the top five films of the year. Action, amazing effects, more action and more amazing effects will absolutely rivet you to your seat for the second half of the film. Peter Jackson's lifelong dream of re-creating King Kong for his own amusement will be the amusement of almost everyone in America and the civilized world. You'll see; wait til the box office numbers start coming in.
King Kong is the story of...well, you know the story. Some guys wanna make a movie on an island, so they go there and there's a huge ape that steals the beautiful girl and falls in love with her, and everyone tries to rescue her while fending off menacing creatures along the way. What I liked about Jackson's version is that he brings us back to 1930's New York City. He didn't really need to do this, but I'm glad he did. The fact that he took the time to re-create that nostalgic feeling makes the film that much better and more interesting to look at. From the great city-scapes to the costumes and set design of the streets and building interiors.
I'll just get some of the bad stuff out of the way quickly. One, as everyone has said, it is a bit too long. The first hour and twenty minutes or so set up characters and give a lot of unnecessary exposition. Attaching yourself to the characters is important, but it could've been done a little bit quicker and in maybe more exciting ways. You could argue though, that the longer the wait, the better the reward. Two, Jack Black. I love the guy but he isn't quite the right fit for this role I don't think. He seemed to be having too much fun and in his own way...hamming it up a little. Again, a minor distraction. The third thing I will discuss in the next paragraph.
The special effects. Let me say that again: the special effects. HOLY CRAP! Sometimes effects are just thrown into a movie to say, "look what we can do!" - i.e. "The Perfect Storm". But at other times, the effects are what help tell the story; as is the case with "King Kong." There is not one scene with Kong in it that isn't believable. PJ took extra care to make sure his creature was totally lifelike. His perfect movements and the emotion in his face were flawless. A lot of this is due in large credit to Andy Serkis' (Gollum from LOTR trilogy) ability to recreate the actions of a 25 foot tall, love-sick gorilla. There are some flaws at other points in the film though. Anytime there are humans and creatures running in the same frame, it is so fake looking that it is bordering on horrible. The brontosaurus stampede scene in particular. It was a tense scene to be sure, but the fakiness really took away something from it. I can't understand why putting humans in a CG world almost never works, but Lucas can pull it off easily and flawlessly. If this scene had been done bettter, I'd be hard pressed not to give this film a perfect 10 out of 10. A score I very rarely give out.
I'm also going to go out on a limb and say that the 10-15 minute battle with the T-Rex (see the trailer) is quite possibly the best action sequence I have ever seen. I admit I'm a little excited right now, but off the top of my head, there are few I can think of that are more exciting, thrilling, gorgeous or as long. After the scene had climaxed and things were starting to cool down, I realized that my mouth was hanging open in mid-chew of a kernal of popcorn and I found my hand covered with butter from sitting in my popcorn bag. I am not kidding. My mouth was open for probably ten minutes and I didn't even realize it until the scene change.
Naomi Watts was her regular fantastic self once again. Her ability to deliver emotion is unparalleled in film today (see "Mulholland Drive" or "21 Grams"). On top of this, she was acting most of the time with nothing but a green screen - that's not easy. I'm not ready to award her an Oscar for best actress or anything, but she is very believable and was perfectly cast in the role of Ann Darrow. The rest of the cast are just there. They all do a fine job; and who doesn't like Adrien Brody? Although anyone could've filled that role with ease.
Differing slightly from the original 1933 film as far as story goes, there is much more attraction between Kong and Ann. In the original, Ann spends most of her time screaming in fear and trying to run from the beast. In the 1976, Jeff Bridges/Jessica Lange version, Lange begins to appreciate and even come to love the beast. So is true with this picture and the bond between beauty and beast is touching and fairly emotional. What I like best about the reciprocal relationship is the fact that you actually care about Kong at the end when he falls from the Empire State Building. In the original we could care less about Kong and are almost rooting against him. Not here. The softer hearts in the audience may even feel a lump in the throat and some watery eyes as the planes do their damage to our hero. A couple of the better scenes of the film occur when Kong is at peace and with Ann. His spectrum of the emotion in his face is astonishing. The scene in which Ann and Kong are in central park is...well, beautiful.
Anger, fear, agression, rage and lonliness. Just a few of Kong's easy to spot emotions. Unlike previous attempts at the Kong story there is a much higher body count as humans fly through the air like pieces of trash, or have their heads bitten off without a second's thought from Kong (or other creatures). It's rated PG-13 for a reason, although there's not much actual gore or blood. The native people on the island were surprisingly scary and even I kind of got a little chill from their faces and chanting.
I don't know what else to say. It is an amazingly fun time at the theater and I praise Jackson thoroughly for giving it to me. I bash him pretty hard sometimes for the over rated films that are "Lord of the Rings," but not now. I give credit where credit is due. The two flaws are one fake looking 5 minute running scene and a 3 hour 7 minute running time. Does the rest of the film make up for it's shortcomings? Oh yeah. Oh, hell yeah! For the first time in a long time there is a film in theaters I will likely pay money to see again. Although, I'll probably get my seat, then leave the theater for about an hour and come back to enjoy the ride again. Already garnishing two golden globe noms for best director and best original score, I would guess Oscars for best effects, probably best director and quite possibly a best picture nomination will be forthcoming. See this film on the big screen now. Seriously, right now...go. Why are you still reading this?