Fat Steve's Blatherings

Friday, December 16, 2005

Movie Review: King Kong


        King Kong is one of the two best films of the year, the other being The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Go see both, and don't miss Walk the Line either.

  • Story adaptation: excellent, usually following the original, and fitting in the deviations nicely.

  • Casting: good to great.

  • Acting: excellent.

  • Direction: Oscar worthy.

  • Effects: breathtaking.

        Two thumbs up in Minneapolis, and they couldn't be held higher.

At Length:

        K. and I can sum it up by saying we aren't sure if King Kong is the best picture of the year, or whether The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe beats it.  There's really nothing else to challenge them, though Walk the Line came close.

        Since you know the story, I'll just say that "Carl Denham," (Jack Black), the movie producer/director, is more driven and a bit darker (the original character was modeled on Merrian C. Cooper's image of himself, which was fairly close to reality); "Jack Driscoll" (Adrien Brody) has changed from the ship's executive officer to a playwrite and screenwriter; the first mate is now a black guy, "Mr. Hayes" (Evan Parke); "Ann Darrell" (Naomi Watts) is a vaudeville performer, and becomes intensely bonded with Kong, unlike the original Ann; a few characters were added, such as "Bruce Baxter," leading man, "Preston" (Colin Hayes), assistant to Carl Denham, "Jimmie," a young sailor, and "Herb the Cameraman" (John Sumner) — they all fit in quite well; director Peter Jackson left the "spider pit" sequence in*; Skull Island's natives are scary as hell; and Andy Serkis is dynamite as Kong.

        You'd probably benefit by watching the original before seeing this one, since the basic plot, many scenes, and quite a bit of dialogue is straight from the 1933 classic.  Other times it goes it's own way, but doesn't violate the original.  We watched the new "collector's edition" DVD last week, and both felt it enhanced the experience when we saw this one.

        Casting Adrien Brody as an action hero was a surprise, but he makes it work when it counts.  Jack Black is a fine Carl Denham.  Naomi Watts gets top billing as Ann Darrow, and deserves it.  In fact, all the acting is excellent.  The direction is what you'd expect from Peter Jackson after The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The effects are close to perfect.  The fight with the T. Rexs is what you'd hoped for from the trailer, but more.  It's just gorgeous to look at, throughout.  And just about everything works.  I can find a few nits to pick if I work at it, but why bother?  This is about as perfect a sci-fi/action-adventure drama as ever made, and is a worthy successor to the original, which was itself one of the all-time great films.  Go see it, and go see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  If you haven't seen Walk the Line yet, pick that up too, though it's not quite as good as Kong or Lion.  It's close, though.  We have three of the best movies of the year in theatres now.  Enjoy!

*       'What "spider pit" sequence,' I hear you cry?  Well, remember when Kong shakes the men off the log?  The spider pit is what they fell into.  In the original film, several survived, and had to fight monsters there, but the scenes were cut before the original release.  The new King Kong collector's edition DVD has a recreation, based on the original script and drawings.  Peter Jackson and crew put it together using 1933 stop motion technology.  (It had to be recreated because the original film is lost, though I once met someone who said he'd seen it — allegedly, RKO was cleaning out its vault, destroying unwanted film; someone supposedly stole the strip from the trash).

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