King Kong
Word of advice, Naomi – I think the big ape might take offense if you soil his palm.


Golden Mug

2005 GOLDEN MUGS

WINNER:

Best Sound
Best Visual Effects

NOMINEE:

Best Director (Peter Jackson)
Best Actress (Naomi Watts)
Best Film Editing (Jamie Selkirk)


Theatrical Release Date: 12/14/2005
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Thomas Kretschmann

The world is finally able to see the sensation that has been building for pretty much the entire year. Whether or not you were salivating at the idea of this particular remake, the media hype surrounding the film has been nearly undeniable. And with Hollywood taking a hit on revenues this year, they are hoping moviegoers flock to the cinemas with the release of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”.

Of course, if you are going to tackle such an ambitious project, choosing Jackson isn’t a bad choice, given his track record. Or more accurately should I say, letting Jackson make this film is financially smart. He has been attempting to make the film for years and with the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, movie studios saw they would more than likely get a return on their investment (even with one this large).

The 2005 version of “King Kong” attempts to both pay homage to the original 1933 movie and to use all of the present state-of-the-art technology to take the film to new territory. To that end, the film excels. There are numerous shots inspired by the original, certain costume pieces thrown in to look like those used 72 years ago, and all of the action is frighteningly realistic.

Of particular note are the much ballyhooed fight scenes between Kong and a few T-Rexes in the jungle and between Kong and the airplanes at the top of the Empire State Building. These scenes are nothing short of spectacular.

As Kong is fighting the T-Rexes, the action builds and builds, becoming more and more intense. However, unlike many fights in Hollywood movies, this one keeps going for a while, all the while increasing in its ferocity and awe. And Jackson’s treatment of the airplanes zeroing in on Kong is fantastic.

After the big ape climbs to the top of the Empire State Building, there is one cautionary note for my loyal fans. If you are afraid of heights and see this movie on a large enough screen, you will feel a bit queasy. I have a fairly decent phobia when it comes to precarious ledges a hundred stories above the ground. The way in which Jackson shoots these scenes high above New York had me cringing a bit and wishing Kong would stay a bit farther away from the edge.

Spectacular fight choreography and digital trickery aside, there are some excellent performances from real humans in this film as well. Naomi Watts is simply the best actress in the business right now and she delivers another stellar performance. Adrien Brody provided a solid performance, excelling at playing a heroic character but I was a little disappointed in the more intimate scenes with Watts. Fellow “The Pianist” actor Thomas Kretschmann plays the captain of the ship that brings the film crew to Kong’s island and he is probably the most believable character in the film.

I would also like to give Andy Serkis his credit for providing the cast with something real to base their performance on and for making most of Kong’s movements seem natural. He also has a minor role as one of the ship’s crew, which is nice of Jackson to do for someone who has been so instrumental to his success (since he was Gollum in the LOR trilogy).

However, there are also some less than amazing performances. I understand the rationale behind casting Jack Black as the shameless promoter/movie director. And there was an attempt to show that his character wasn’t completely heartless and greedy. Still, with the body of work Black has shown thus far, I couldn’t believe his character’s intentions. So many times I was hoping he’d break out into song or something.

Also, a dangerous drinking game was spawned during this film regarding Black’s performance. Perhaps with a bit of a Spielberg in mind, Jackson used an unnecessary amount of “Jack Black looking” shots, where his eyes and facial expression are meant to convey the gravity of what the audience is about to see. I get why you would want to use this technique for the really pivotal scenes … but sometimes less is more.

Also on the questionable casting decisions is Colin Hanks. I feel a little bad because I seem to bad mouth him more than he probably deserves. However, in this role I always got the feeling that he didn’t fill the shoes quite right. It’s hard to explain, and that is my failing. Suffice to say, when I wasn’t thinking “Hey, that’s Tom Hanks’ son”, I was kind of hoping his character would get squashed by the big ape.

While I’m highlighting the shortcomings of the film, let me talk a bit about the score. James Newton Howard was brought on at nearly the last minute to redo the score that Howard Shore was originally hired to provide. I think I would have preferred Shore’s version without even hearing it because on multiple occasions I was taken out of the movie by the music itself. A score is supposed to help complete the movie’s intentions. Instead, the music either was too intense or too sappy in relation to the situation on screen.

Overall, “King Kong” is an excellent piece of filmmaking and a technical triumph. Many of the early reviews are hailing it as this year’s “Titanic”. Anyone who knows me realizes that’s not a good thing in my opinion. And there are similarities between the films, such as the epic scale and the fact that a love story is embedded in a larger-than-life situation. Sadly for Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCraprio though, I found more substance between a fake 25-foot tall ape and Naomi Watts.

I’m going to give the biggest ape of them all a 4 out of 5. So by all means, go out and see “King Kong”. The effects are worth the price alone and really have to be seen on the big screen. Even an expensive home theater set up will fail to capture the scale of this film. Just keep in mind that the movie itself is a 3, but the sheer artistry in developing and using the technology available pushed the film up a notch.