12.28.2005

King Kong

Normally I don't like the idea of re-makes, especially when the movie being re-made is a classic. Even decent re-makes of classic films, like the recent version of The Manchurian Candidate, cannot really be taken on their own terms unless the re-make brings something to the story that the original lacked. Naturally this is beyond the ability of most filmmakers, but when I found out that Peter Jackson planned to follow up the Lord of the Rings trilogy by re-making the legendary 1933 thriller King Kong, I had plenty of reason to believe this would be an exception to the general rule. For the most part my optimism was vindicated, although the new King Kong winds up being a bit too long for its own good and stumbles at a few places. The visual effects in a handful of scenes did not receive the same amount of care that went into the most of the movie. For example, you could easily argue that most of the dinosaur scenes were better in the original version than they are in the new one.

The fact that most of the movie reinforces the reputation Jackson earned with Lord of the Rings makes these lesser moments that much more frustrating. Kong really comes to life in the new version, thanks to a combination of standard-redefining computer animation and Andy Serkis bringing out multiple facets in the giant gorilla's personality, much as he did with Gollum in Lord of the Rings. Naomi Watts shines as frustrated actress Ann Darrow, bringing depth, intelligence, and compassion to a character reduced to alternating between screaming and fainting in the original. I had worried about whether Jack Black could pull off a relatively serious role, but he turned out to be perfectly cast as the overly ambitious movie director Carl Denham. Ultimately though, any re-make of King Kong would be judged by two sequences: the fight between Kong and the tyrannosaurus rex (or three of them), and the climactic scene on the top of the Empire State Building. In both cases, the new version delivers spectacularly. The New York scenery was so intensely true to life that anybody with even a slight fear of heights will consider the climax to be the most squeamish part of the movie. (Unless they're also afraid of bugs, but that's a long story.)

In short, while the new version of King Kong would have benefited from fewer scenes and an equal amount of care placed in each sequence, the film has enough moments of brilliance to justify its hype and blockbuster status. It's a little frustrating that it could have been better, but the new King Kong is still well worth seeing.

Overall Grade: B+

1 comment:

Random Goblin said...

I have yet to hear anyone say this movie sucks.

My expectations are high...