Movie Review: King Kong (2005)

King Kong (DVD)King Kong (2005)

Starring Jack Black, Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Colin Hanks, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell and Pope John Paul II

Directed by Peter Jackson

Fans of Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, take note: I am about to voice an opinion that may prompt you to take up your pitchforks and torches and run me out of town. Ready to get your hackles raised and perhaps your undies in a bundle? Here we go…

The end of Return of the King was way too long. Peter Jackson should have cut the scenes of Frodo and Sam climbing Mount Doom in half, at the very least. I understand that the One Ring was a heavy burden, but I watched the first two movies, so I there was no need for Jackson to keep pounding on the point like John Henry on a railroad spike. The last bit of Frodo and Sam’s journey was the single most tedious section of the entire trilogy. I was ready to build the hobbits a damned ski lift just to get them up the bloody mountain.

The first hour of King Kong is a lot like the last hour of Return of the King that way; it drags painfully along like a snail with a limp. Jackson jumps through unnecessary hoops to get Carl Denham (Jack Black), Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) aboard the Venture and steaming toward Skull Island, home of King Kong. It’s Frodo and Sam climbing Mount Doom all over again, but with shoes.

Then, something interesting happens: Kong makes his first appearance and Peter Jackson kicks this sleepy, tedious little movie into all-out, balls-to-the-wall hyperspeed. It’s as though he wandered into the editing room and noticed that the dial labeled “ACTION” was in the “OFF” position and decided to just crank that sucker to eleven.

Once on Skull Island, things start to happen pretty quickly. Ann Darrow is offered up as a sacrifice to Kong and Jack Driscoll is determined to save her. He doesn’t know what has taken Ann, but he knows that he wants her back, so he sets off into the unknown along with Carl Denham and a detail of crewmen from the Venture.

Skull Island makes Jurassic Park look like EuroDisney, and once the crew is beyond the giant wall that the natives have built to contain Kong, things get interesting. The story splits into two parts: Ann’s experiences with Kong and Jack’s relentless pursuit of whatever stole his girl. Both parts feature some astounding, pulse-pounding action, but it is when Ann tries to escape from the big ape that Peter Jackson kicks the movie up notches that would make Emeril Lagasse squeal like a stuck pig.

Ann Darrow has so many consecutive “out of the frying pan and into the fire” moments during her attempt at escaping from Kong that I nearly had to break out the defibrillator. Just when I thought her situation could not possibly get any worse, it did and did and did again. I don’t want to reveal too much about this sequence, but I will say two things:

  1. There are dinosaurs.
  2. Holy crap.

It is quite possibly the single most intense, edge-of-your-seat action sequence that I have ever seen, and is easily worth the price of admission all by itself. Do yourself a favor: see King Kong on the big screen, just for this sequence, because it may not achieve the same eye-popping effect on your television.

Action aside, King Kong is (surprise, surprise) a far more engaging movie when the title character is on screen. Once again, Jackson has managed to blend technical wizardry with the incredible talent of Andy Serkis to create a fascinating, beautiful and amazingly real character. Kong’s personality and the relationship he forges with Ann Darrow are so powerful that the inevitable conclusion of the movie is utterly heartbreaking.

On the unpatented, untrademarked KJToo Arbitrary 27-point Rating System, I give King Kong a 25. As always, there are three categories, each of which can score a maximum of nine points:

  • Action: 10
    That’s right, King Kong gets 10 out of a possible 9 points in the Action category. Once it gets going, the movie is chock full of thrills, spills and chills. The visual effects are top-notch and the sequence in which Kong faces off against the dinosaurs deserves an ovation. In fact, I’m going to award it the first-ever KJToo “Holy #$&%!” Award for Jaw-Dropping, Ass-Kicking Action.
  • Heart: 9
    Performances are solid all around, but it is King Kong himself that gives the movie life. There simply wasn’t a moment where I felt I wasn’t looking at a living, breathing creature when Kong was on the screen, and I was rooting for him the entire time.
  • Pacing: 6
    That first hour is agonizingly slow, but the remaining two-thirds of the movie picked up most of the slack. In addition to pacing problems, there are a couple of sub-plots that I found excessive, poorly-developed, and inconsequential to the larger story.

The Christmas Run-down

Laura and I usually spend one of the winter holidays with my parents and the other with hers. This generally means a 13-hour drive up to the U.P. in November or December, which thrills Laura to no end. She much prefers the U.P. in late July or early August, when the temperature soars high above freezing.

I, on the other hand, love visiting the U.P. in the wintertime. It’s in my blood, it’s in my boots, and sometimes it’s in my beard.

This year, Laura was at PregCon 7 when Thanksgiving rolled around, and we had decided not to travel for the holidays. We had a very nice Thanksgiving with Laura’s family, and then my mother-in-law canceled Christmas.

Well, actually, it turns out she had to work on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we postponed our Christmas get-together until next weekend, when we’ll do a combined Christmas and New Year’s celebration. We’re gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny f- … well, you get the idea.

Today was not bereft of joyeux noel, however. Laura somehow managed to get us invited to the Schoonover residence for Christmas dinner. I guess you can get away with a lot when you’re eight months pregnant. We had a very good dinner and did a little gift exchange with Chris (AKA Schoon) and Lynette. Also, there were mudslides, which fill me with the Christmas spirit. Or spirits. Whatever.

Because I love lists, here are the Official Christmas 2005 Loot Lists.

First, from Mrs. Kris (Kringle), I received:

  • The Shroud of the Twacker by Chris Elliot (yes, that Chris Elliot).
  • To Drive the Cold Winter Away by Loreena McKennitt. This CD came with a bonus DVD that made me want to get more of Loreena McKennitt’s music in 5.1 surround sound. I’ve fallen prey to their clever marketing ploy!
  • Underthings.
  • More underthings. These ones are funny boxers that have “May the Farts be with you” printed on them. You didn’t need to know that.
  • Button-down shirt (color: seaweed).
  • Lounge pants (what “men” apparently call pajama bottoms, now).
  • A new wallet. My driver’s license was threatening to escape the old one.
  • The Emperor Palpatine (or is it Darth Sidious?) PEZ dispenser. When you pull back his head, a goiter of pure, unadulterated evil thrusts out of his neck. Lemony!

From various relatives, friends and co-workers:

  • Button-down shirt (color: rust).
  • Caramel corn and snacky-type flavored oyster crackers. Yum!
  • Filthy lucre and a Best Buy gift card. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with cash and gift certificates. Truth be told, though, I agonize over how to spend gift money sometimes. I want to be certain that what I buy is worthy of other people’s money. Weird.
  • The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Work by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, with illustrations by Brenda Brown. Now I know the proper way to duck out of a meeting, get a job I’m not qualified for, and take over an unoccupied office.
  • Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits by Strong Bad and featuring Limozeen, Taranchula, The Kinda Long-Haired Band, What’s-Her-Face, Marzipan, Coach Z, Strong Sad, Strong Mad and Mrs. Partsmatter’s First Grade Class. If you don’t know who Strong Bad is, you need to head over to Homestar Runner and spend the next three days looking at every last cartoon on the site. I’ll wait for you here.
  • Strong Bad Emails 3-disc DVD set. The first 100 Strong Bad e-mails.
  • Strong Bad Emails Disc 4. Strong Bad e-mails 101-130.
  • Everything Else Vol. 1. A ton of other Homestar Runner stuff on DVD.

As you can see, I made out like a bandit this year. I seem to know a lot of extremely generous people who haven’t quite figured out that I deserve nothing but coal. I’m sure they’ll catch on next year, and I’ll be singing a different tune.

The tune I’m singing now? It goes a little something like this…

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome, Christmas,
come this way!

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome, Christmas,
Christmas day!

Once again, Merry Christmas to all.