The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
King Kong

Reviewed by Jake Finbow.

Director Peter Jackson
Length 187 mins
Certificate 12A
Rating *********-
Filmmaking: 4  Personal enjoyment: 5

Photo from the article Peter Jackson had long harboured ambitions to remake King Kong (1933). It was, in fact, his failure to gain backing for this project that led him undertake his Plan B, Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). With the immense critical and box office success of that trilogy now granting him a license to do as he likes, Jackson has been able to return to his first love, Kong; and what a labour of love it is.

The sheer scale of the movie is crucial to the success of this remake. King Kong is one of Hollywood’s great cinematic monuments and the image of Kong on top of the Empire State Building one of cinema’s most famous images. Modern audiences watching the original film for its quaint charm and story could only imagine the impact it must have had on its contemporary audiences as a spectacle until now.

This film - in its length, the size of its action, and the scale of its emotion - recreates the effect of the original for a modern day movie-goer. Jackson makes full use of digital effects to create action sequences as good as, literally, any ever before. Where the 1933 film sees Kong fight one T-Rex, here he fights 3 in one of many spectacular computer-generated action sequences. Granted, some of these may be a little unnecessary or overlong, but - crucially - they add to the overall sense of size that is so important to the film’s success.

Whilst the plot of the film stays close to the original, this Kong’s 3-hour running time gives Jackson more time to develop his characters. In particular, this version is much more aware of the power of the doomed love story between Kong and Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), and is allowed to give greater emphasis and time to their relationship. No less crucial, however, is the character of Kong himself, played by a digitally transformed Andy Serkis, the actor behind Lord of the Rings’ Gollum. He brings a very real character and emotion to the heart of the CGI character, and whilst Kong’s size and power is stunning, it is the frequent close ups on his giant face and emotions that make the most impact upon the audience. It must also be acknowledged that Jack Black - an inspired choice - is superb, perfectly embodying despicable human greed and hubris, yet simultaneously conveying the same ambition to bring an audience wonder that this film itself is born from.

Ultimately, this is simply the Hollywood epic as is meant to be - excitement, emotion and action on a grand scale - and proves they still can make them like they used to.

This review was published on January 03, 2006.

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