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MOVIE REVIEW (Drama)
King Kong
Jack Black, Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody

The Official Site
Soundtrack and book available at Amazon.com

Label: Peter Jackson Released: 12/5/2005


When most of us think of King Kong, we think of the iconic image of Kong on the top of the Empire State building, Fay Wray in hand, awaiting his tragic demise. So, without doing any research or reading the book (as most won't), one might expect the film to be a Godzilla-like romp through New York City in pursuit of the overgrown ape.

In fact the film tends towards more of a Jurassic Park-like exploration of Skull Island, Kong's home and apparently the "island that time forgot". A good portion of the film revolves around the discovery of the island, of Kong, and various rescue missions gone awry, set in a lush tropical jungle inhabited by everything from dinosaurs to some of the most gruesome invertebrates ever imagined. Even non-arachnophobes will squirm during some of the scenes as various crew members meet their untimely deaths at the hands, claws and mouths of some single-minded foes.

After a slightly elongated sequence which very effectively sets the scene in prohibition-era New York, we are introduced to the characters and their motives - Carl Denham (Jack Black) as the filmmaker without scruples, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) as the beautiful but desperate unemployed vaudeville actor (apparently "Fay" was unavailable, one of the film's many nods to the 1933 original), Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) as the railroaded and eventually lovestruck playwright/screen-writer. Darrow is recruited as a last-minute fill-in for an actress who quit, and eventually they head off on their rusty steamer, supposedly in search of locations in which to shoot some scenes to complete Denham's movie-in-progress.

Ultimately of course they end up at Skull Island over the protests of Captain Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann) where Darrow is captured by the natives - sorry, aboriginal people - offered as a sacrifice to, and taken away by, Kong. Darrow's determination to avoid becoming the next addition to Kong's bone yard (later scenes of Kong eating bamboo shoots make it unclear whether he ever ate any of the sacrifices or just toyed with them, then "disposed" of them when he got bored) eventually endears him to the ape and they form a bond. The rest, as they say is history... well fictional history at least. Denham's hubris catches up with him, Darrow catches up with Kong, and a-climbing they do go.

As far as movie-making goes, once the hapless group arrive at Skull Island, it is pretty much non-stop action from there. The computer-generated Kong is rendered in flawless detail from his matted fur and scars to his facial expressions and grumblings (by Andy Serkis of Gollum "my precious" fame) which do a good job of showing Kong's pathos at living alone, surrounded by the skeletons of sacrifices and his former female companion. There are occasional lapses in belief such as a scene of Kong jumping from building to building in New York, and another of a native pole-vaulting from rock to rock to kidnap Darrow (didn't they learn from similar poorly executed scenes in Spiderman?) but otherwise the effects are very convincing, as can be expected of a Hollywood blockbuster at this point.

All in all an action-packed blockbuster with some touching scenes, occasionally wooden performances, and a happy/sad ending that everyone knows from the start.

Steve Donnelly Email WWW

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