King Kong Review

King Kong is a 2005 epic monster adventure film directed by Peter Jackson, starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell, and Adrien Brody.  Serving as a remake of the 1933 film of the same name, the story follows an ambitious filmmaker who coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to the mysterious Skull Island, only to encounter Kong, a legendary giant gorilla.


Positives:

  • Great performances
  • Great cast
  • Some characters are great
  • Terrific music
  • Terrific visuals
  • Emotionally, compelling story
  • Well-written script
  • Great direction
  • Great action

Negatives:

  • Characters are decent

Plot: Follows director Carl Denham and his crew on a journey from New York City to the ominous Skull Island to film a new movie. Accompanying him are playwright Jack Driscoll and actress Ann Darrow, who is whisked away by the monstrous ape, Kong, after they reach the island. The crew encounters dinosaurs and other creatures as they race to rescue Ann, while the actress forms a bond with her simian captor.  The story is compelling and does a great job of illustrating the relationship that develops between Ann and Kong.  Even when it comes to the ending, the story builds up to an incredibly emotional climax.  This is a long film and the beginning can be pretty slow to get into. (4 out of 5)

Characters: Though there are some memorable characters the titular character steals the show.  Kong is a 25 foot gorilla and although not human shows an incredible amount of emotion compared to most of the human characters. Aside from Kong, the main cast consist of a struggling actress named Ann Darrow (Watts), a film director named Carl Denham (Black), and a screenwriter named Jack Driscoll (Brody). Although Ann is a likable character her personality doesn’t begin to shine until she meets Kong and that’s when the magic flies.  She has a romantic relationship with Jack but this pails in comparison to what she has with Kong which does form an interesting love triangle.  But that doesn’t stop Jack from being a great character himself.  True he loves, Ann but he isn’t hateful of Kong.  As great as Jack Black plays Denham, he is the least likable character, especially since his actions alone get Kong and a lot of other people killed.  The other characters are pretty sweet.  Bruce Baxter (Chandler) provides a good bit of comedy to the mix with his confident personality. Jimmy (Bell) was a pretty good character although I wished they would’ve done a little bit more with the character. There are some honorable mentions such as Denham’s cameraman Herb (Sumner), Captain Englehorn (Kretschmann), Englehorn’s first mate Ben (Parke), and the ship’s cook Lumpy (Serkis). (4 out of 5)

Cast: Honestly the casting and performances are solid: consisting of Naomi Watts, Andy Serkis, Adrien Brody, and Jack Black. Watts deserves praise for her performance.  She has a great presence that reflects her character. Just as impressive is Andy Serkis as Kong.  Few are as gifted as Serkis when it comes to motion capturing the guy pulls it off with grace. He also plays the ship’s cook Lumpy and does a damn good job. Brody is good and he and Watts have good enough chemistry together.  Black does a surprisingly good job, ten times better than his usual comedic roles.  The supporting cast includes Evan Parke, Kyle Chandler, John Sumner, Lobo Chan, Craig Hall, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Mark Hadlow, and William Johnson. (4 out of 5)

Visuals:  Next to Kong: Skull Island, this has probably got to be the best King Kong movie ever to hit the screens. Everything from the costume designs to the CGI is handled with care and again shows Jackson’s eye for creating spectacles.  Kong is the most realistic he’s ever been onscreen and the choice to have him as a large 25 foot gorilla definitely makes it that more believable. Andy Serkis is a perfect cast for the motion capture of Kong and it definitely shows how well technology has come along.  The close ups of his character, the depth and emotion in his eyes is just well captured.  And the cinematography is just great. There are so many great shots of Skull Island especially when it comes to the wide shots of island as well as the city. The creatures of Skull Island are well designed, the detail topnotch. (5 out of 5)

Score: The music is just plain beautiful and definitely hits its mark masterfully.  There are moments of heightened emotion and the music just gives it more emotional weight, especially those small moments between Ann and Kong.  Also, the music can give the action a pretty fast paced, edgy feel that helps emphasize the high stakes. James Newton Howard definitely should be commended for the soundtrack, as it is one of the most beautifully crafted I’ve heard.  Also, the sound design is just impressive with the deep roar of the ocean, the unique sounds of the Skull Island creatures, and world of Skull Island itself.  There is a lot to be appreciated when it comes to score. (5 out of 5)

Writing:  Loved the direction Peter Jackson takes the film.  He has a good eye for spectacle and this movie has plenty of it. The story is well written and shows that human isn’t the only species with emotion and depth. Also, there is the focus of Kong being the alone, the last of his kind which makes for a stronger connection with the character.  But perhaps the most prominent feature of the writing is the expansion of Skull Island.  The movie goes at a slow pace but it’s good for the storytelling.  The characters are written well enough to have enough depth to make them standout. One of the best and most memorable moments is the scene after Kong rampages through New York City searching for Ann and the two of them share a moment sliding across the frozen pond in the snow.  The music, the visuals, the direction makes moments like this memorable.  Show that Kong isn’t a monster.  Another scene that shows Kong’s struggles for survival is the scene where he’s protecting Ann from a trio of T-Rex-like dinosaurs.  It’s awesome, fast paced, and shows his prowess.  (4 out of 5)


The Verdict: In the end, King Kong is definitely one of the best movies of 2005 and one of the best Kong movies.  There is hardly any problems with the film outside of some small nitpicks, but the movie delivers on everything else in high quality.  The movie features great characters, great cast with great performances, terrific visuals, fantastic score, well-written script, and great direction.  King Kong gets 4 out of 5.

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