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.

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