King Kong

I was one of those people who thought King Kong was a mistake for director Peter Jackson. Fresh from his monumental success and Academy Awards with his work on The Lord of the Rings, I wasn’t confident that he would make an equally, much less surpassively, good film. I was proven wrong. Running at a horrendously intimidating 187 minutes, I had my fears that there would be parts where cinematographic drags would consume my interest in the film, especially since there were several such moments in Fellowship of the Ring which Jackson also directed. However, I was pleased to find that dragging moments were limited and the whopping runtime was put to good use… so take care of your bladders prior to watching. I have heard many complaints regarding the first third of the film which takes place in depression-era New York city. It is in this third where the titular beast is nowhere to be seen, but we are introduced to all the other main characters. I have argued many times that a film is not without it’s characters and so far in his blockbuster career, Peter Jackson has not disappointed in characterization. It keeps the audience in the hearts and minds of everything that happens onscreen and therefore maintains an engaging atmosphere. All in all, you care about all the fuss and you watch and wait, with interest, for the next scene to unfold. Therefore, in spite of the gargantuan runtime, I was riveted to the screen. Carl Denham (Jack Black… yes, Jack Black) is a struggling filmmaker whose career has been so far almost successful. When he learns his latest film is about to be scrapped, he escapes with his film and crew to continue production. He then learns his lead actress has quit and runs into an out-of-luck vaudeville entertainer, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who he manages to recruit. He convinces his cast and ship crew that they will be heading for Singapore to film. In reality, he is heading for the mysterious Skull Island whose location he had acquired just as mysteriously. However, his production woes continue as his script is unfinished. He then takes popular theater writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) to continue the script while the ship sails for Skull Island. Upon reaching the island, they encounter murderous natives who wish to offer Ann to the gigantic beast they worship, Kong. George Lucas once said that special effects are there to aid the telling of a story and should not be the emphasis of a film. Whether or not Lucas himself adheres to this philosophy is debatable, but it is clear that Jackson does. There is not one scene, real or digitally created, in this movie that does not have meaning. There is the scene of a shared sunset between Ann and Kong with volumes of depth. It is this scene, to this reviewer, that escalated the film from ordinary blockbuster to movie greatness. Yes, there have been previous King Kong films. But where they fail is where Peter Jackson’s take shines. There is an actual relationship between Kong and Ann, we actually understand why Ann cares so much for him. While Kong would try to impress her with roars and beating his chest, Ann would perform her vaudeville antics (to Kong’s.. and ultimately the audience’s delight). It is their shared moments of joy that solidify an unusual bond of friendship between Ann and Kong. Ann perhaps realizes that she is Kong’s only friend, and hence his entire world. It is the relationship between Ann and Kong that Jackson decided to concentrate his full filmmaking abilities and rightfully so. Yes, there is another sort-of love story between Ann and Jack Driscoll but not one that would outshine the focus of the film. As for the other actors, they were top-notch. I have heard others say Jack Black was frightfully miscast but I think otherwise. His over-the-top acting fits perfectly for Carl, a filmmaker with so much passion for his film that he continually tries to sell it to everyone just so they “get it”. King Kong, I would have to say, is one of the best films of the year. Entirely engaging and a delightful and sometimes frightening adventure, it is one with definite heart. From vaudeville opening to heart-wrenching denoument, Jackson has made a film that beats on it’s chest and roars.

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