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.

6 thoughts on “Movie Review: King Kong (2005)”

  1. It is important to note that P. Jacks’ (I’m allowed to call him that.) ACTION-O-METER goes to 11. He took all of them apart, rebuilt them, and then made them go to 11.

    Which is more than ten.

  2. but the really important question is……

    Knowing the KJtoo movie viewing experience is always of the utmost quality and your surroundings are always top notch…..

    Who and/or was disturbing in the movie theater?

  3. The first hour of King Kong: “character development.”

    It helped you fall in love with the leading man and woman as well as see what a slick weasel Jack Black portrayed. You met various members of the Venture’s crew and got to know them as well, so that when the time came for them to be involved, and die, you cared about it.

    I think without it, we wouldn’t have a story. Just an action flick.

    Peter Jackson is the real King.

  4. Gator said:

    Who and/or was disturbing in the movie theater?

    The theater experience was relatively pleasant. We went on Christmas Eve to a 3:30 matinee. There were about two dozen people in the auditorium, total. Apart from some very brief chatter behind us, it was about as good as such things get.

  5. Jahnoth said:

    The first hour of King Kong: “character development.”

    It helped you fall in love with the leading man and woman as well as see what a slick weasel Jack Black portrayed. You met various members of the Venture’s crew and got to know them as well, so that when the time came for them to be involved, and die, you cared about it.

    I would agree with you, but for the following:

    1. It would have been possible to establish Ann as a struggling actress without playing up her relationship with the elderly actor (who we’ll never see again) in the beginning. You could argue that the relationship shows her character, but if that’s the only way you can establish her character, you’ve got a big problem.

    2. The romance between Jack and Ann seemed forced. (Oops, I guess we’re in love now.) Given that Jackson took an hour to set this up, I think it could have been done far more convincingly.

    3. You really don’t get a good sense of who Jack is until Ann is sacrificed to Kong on Skull Island. Again, despite the hour that was spent developing the characters.

    4. The relationship between Mister Hayes and Jimmy was pointless. Jackson was clearly trying to create something interesting with their conversations (especially about Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), but it failed to pluck whatever heartstring he was aiming for. I’d have much rather seen more interaction between Mister Hayes and Captain Englehorn (both of whom were far more compelling characters than Jimmy).

    5. The scene in which Carl “tricks” Jack into staying on the Venture was way overdone. The endless cuts to the engines, pistons and props were obviously meant to build the suspense, but it really wasn’t necessary.

    Something else that bugs me: What’s the point of spending so much time building Carl Denham up as a slick weasel if he’s never going to suffer the consequences of his actions? Carl is responsible for every death that occurs throughout the film, yet he comes out of the entire experience unscathed. I suppose you could argue that he’s going to be the target of a shit-ton of lawsuits, but is that really how you want the true villain of King Kong to go down?

    I agree that character development is important, and I’m not suggesting that the first third of the film could have been entirely eliminated; I just think the goal could have been accomplished with far less rigamarole.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *