starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Evan Parke and Andy Serkis
written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyers and Peter Jackson
directed by Peter Jackson
Imagine my luck. I was in the video shop with my son. King Kong had just recently been released in the stores here. My shop had 21 copies, all rented. But wait. Just as I was standing there looking at the shelves of new releases and all the empty DVD boxes of King Kong and Jodie Foster’s latest, Flight Plan, a shop attendant put one copy of King Kong back on the shelves. Right in front of me! I snatched it up on the spot.
This King Kong, directed by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) is a lot better than the1970s Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange remake, and is very much in the spirit of the 1933 original. I liked it a lot and I would say that it challenges the original film, directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Shoedsack, and starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot.
I realized before the Beauty and the Beast element of the Kong story, but I never considered the Heart of Darkness element of it. Jack Black (School of Rock) gives a superb performance as megalomaniacal, obnoxious prick of a filmmaker Carl Denham.
One thing that the original Hollywood treatment of King Kong does not communicate to an audience is the dirt involved in the story. An undiscovered jungle island untouched by time and inhabited by dinosaurs is full of dirt, sweat and slime. If the place is untouched by time it means that it is also untouched by sanitation.
My favorite line from the film is the quip that real world heroes, rather than resembling the handsome leading men played to portray them in film, have “bad teeth, a bald spot and a beer gut.” Yeah. Maybe I could be a hero, then.
Only now, as an adult, does it strike me as stupid that a New York adventurer would fall upon an island untouched by time, inhabited by live dinosaurs, and then take the big gorilla back to civilization dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” That should be the dinosaurs, shouldn’t it? The sole Tyrannosaurus in the original Kong movie - quite a poor rendition of the beast by modern standards, but pretty good for its time - impressed me as a child. Peter Jackson’s version has some great dinosaur scenes, the kind that we should have seen more of in the Jurassic Park movies and only got a bare degree of satisfaction in the third of that series. My favorite part of Kong was in scenes 28-30, starting in the 82ndminute. I call it the Stampede of the Brontosaures. You get the idea.
This film is a must see.