Release Date: December 5th, 2005 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Evan Parke, Andy Serkis
WingNut Films, Universal Pictures, 187 Minutes (theatrical), 200 Minutes (extended)
What a disappointment this was. I never wanted to watch it but I did in an effort to review it, as I am revisiting all the King Kong films before the new one is released in a few weeks.
I was a big Peter Jackson fan when this came out and I had always loved King Kong movies. However, when seeing the trailer for this in 2005, I just wasn’t interested in it. Watching it now, I found it incredibly hard to sit through the 200 minute mess. Yes!… 200 minutes!
Coming off of the heels of his great adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson had Hollywood in the palm of his hand. His special effects studio also proved that Lucasfilm wasn’t the only kid on the block, anymore.
To put it bluntly, this film is awful. The story is a rehash of what we’ve already seen in two better King Kong films. There really is nothing new to this movie, compared to the previous 1976 remake or the 1933 original, except some characters have altered because even though this is a film that takes place in the 1930s, it has to placate to the overabundance of animal rights activists in the world today.
The character of Ann Darrow had to love Kong, right? She couldn’t just flat out be terrified of the beast like she was in 1933, correct? I mean, the most hardcore animal rights activist would be shitting their pants in the clutches of Kong. But this change in the Darrow character, I guess, somehow justified this movie being well over three hours long. Had she just screamed and Kong just grunted, we would have had another Kong film that ran around two hours. Peter Jackson can’t have that! Hell, he turned each Lord of the Rings book into four hour epics and one Hobbit book into three four hour epics.
I remember not being blown away by the special effects when I saw footage of this in 2005. At this point, they look really outdated. The Lord of the Rings films, which predate this, still look really solid for the most part. King Kong, especially the island stuff, looks terrible. It is a fast-paced visual mess. It looks like a bunch of CGI creatures were thrown into a blender while action figures of our heroes dance in front of the high speed churning concoction.
Most of the action is nonsensical and just stupid. For an example of this, look at the scene where Adrien Brody is covered in bugs and Jamie Bell assists him by firing a machine gun at him. Also, the film completely disregards basic biology and physics. I get that you have to suspend disbelief for a film like this to work but King Kong asks you to completely suspend logic and accept stupidity.
The special effects sequences were too abundant. They all just blend together in a horrid mess. Also, the heroes don’t even get to the island for 45 minutes or so. If they shaved off a lot of unimportant things in the long intro and then scaled back on the action stuff, the film could have reasonably been a two hour movie, which it should have been.
Also, the tribal people in this picture are way too terrifying. They were literally a tribe from a horror movie and were definitely too scary for a movie that should have been family friendly and was marketed as such. The tribe also didn’t have a look and feel consistent with the already well established King Kong mythos.
I also hated Naomi Watts’ screaming. It was awful and never seemed to stop.
There are a few positives, though.
The first was Jack Black. I thought he did a tremendously good job as Carl Denham, my favorite character from the original 1933 version.
Also, Andy Serkis was great as Kong. Then again, when isn’t he stellar at playing motion capture characters? He’s the reason why an Oscar should be created for motion capture acting.
Another positive was the last twenty minutes of the film. The finale was pretty great, even if you had to painfully sit through the first three hours. The sequence of Kong on top of the Empire State Building fighting for his survival was pretty heart-wrenching. In fact, I was surprised that I was so taken aback by it, considering the awfulness of the preceding three hours. I credit that to the greatness that is Andy Serkis.
As bad as 1986’s King Kong Lives is considered to be, I think it is better than this film. Sure, that is a bold statement but it at least felt more plausible and it wasn’t a 200 minute bore.
I really have no urge to ever watch this again, where I revisit the other Kong films every few years.