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King Kong

Peter Jackson's epic 2005 remake of King Kong.

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A Little Overdone... and Just Too Long

  • Aug 19, 2009
Rating:
+2
Right after Lord of the Rings became such a smash success at the Box Office and the Academy Awards, Peter Jackson set out to do a film he just about always wanted to do: King Kong.  Peter Jackson talked about how much he enjoyed the film.  And for the most part, King Kong really sounded like a movie Jackson should do.  It could've been a huge epic!  Yeah!  And Peter Jackson does make it an epic.  But when making such an epic where exactly does the line get drawn?  One thing is for sure, when making King Kong, Peter Jackson definitely had quite a bit left in him from Lord of the Rings.  It definitely has Peter Jackson all over.  The film is by no means bad.  In terms of film technique and giving us an epic scale, Peter Jackson has definitely established himself.  That said, King Kong is a technical masterpiece but might just feel a little overdone.  The pacing and epic nature of the film seems to take over.

Naomi Watts plays Ann Darrow, a stage actress who loses her job.  The film takes place in the 1930's during the depression and Ann is just one of many who has lost her job.  Jack Black plays Carl Denham in a role that is very different from what we know him to be.  It's a more serious role and he takes it seriously.  He needs an actress and Ann needs a job.  It is only after Ann learns that Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody) is writing the screenplay that she decides to hop on board.  Carl happens to have come into possession of a map that leads to an uncharted island (yep, that's right, a map shows him where an uncharted island is) and this is where he wants to shoot the film.  You'd think they go right there, right?  Well, no.  We actually have to sit through the cast and crew on a boat and as they make their way to the island.  Not to mention we spend quite a bit of time in New York before then.  Even at the beginning the biggest problem with King Kong begins to unfold.  The film moves at a very smooth pace.  Lord of the Rings didn't move fast either.  In fact, the Fellowship of the Ring was borderline boring, but at least we understood why the films had to be so long to begin with.  With King Kong, it's hard to understand. 

Even when they do get to the island it's a long time before King Kong even gets on screen.  They meet a couple of savage people who never actually show up ever again, and they take Ann away to give to Kong.  By the time King Kong finally makes an appearance in his own film we're well over an hour into the film.  This means you're in for a very long movie.  That's not to say there aren't some fun moments.  There are.  Provided the first hour didn't put you to sleep.  We get to see as Jack, Carl and others go on a quest to save Ann from Kong.  And Ann eventually becomes the love of Kong's life.  As such, Kong is willing to do anything to save her.  We get to see Kong take on two enormous dinosaurs in one scene.  It's fun, but also very long.  Very, very long. 

Along those lines, Carl and Jack also run into problems going to save her.  Including getting involved in a stampede and meeting giant insects.  Eventually Carl's camera gets smashed and he's destroyed over it.  But there is one more hope.  And that's to get King Kong and bring him back to New York.  He's going to come back with.  That's Carl's motivation.  Jack's is simply to save Ann.  Although he doesn't realize Ann has become quite fond of Kong as well.

It should be a pretty exciting adventure, but really it's just overly long.  Visually it's amazing.  Andy Serkis (who also played the motion capture for Gollum in Lord of the Rings) does an excellent job of bringing Kong to life.  The art direction in and of itself is also pretty incredible, but I still can't help but feel that the film is still too long for it's own good and gets a little oversensationalized within its own visual spectacles.  They are amazing, but the heart of the film barely gets a chance to shine.  Most of the characters in and of themselves are quite forgettable or even unlikable.  The film does A LOT to help you understand and like King Kong, but hardly anyone else.  And it isn't because of the actors.  It's because the movie spends so long to get from point A to point B and (eventually) to point Z, but in doing so it isn't really interested in developing the human characters in any way, shape or form. 

It seems unfair to criticize King Kong for its lack of character development.  But I'd argue that when a movie is 3 hours and 20 minutes long, there has to be room to get us to know and like these characters.  The film doesn't.  There are some movies where a long running time is fine.  King Kong isn't one of them.  Within its three hours we don't really grow to like any characters.  The adventure is fun, but aside from that there's a point where the movie just becomes too long.  Another good example of the films superfluous length is actually the moment when Carl and company finally capture Kong.  It took over two hours for us to get there... and takes nearly twenty minutes to show it.  In the midst of all that Jackson does give us a break by actually just jumping to New York instead of showing Kong get there.  

Kong's rampage through New York is also pretty lengthy.  We also get to see some rag doll effects in the midst of it all.  Yet when Kong finally scales the Empire State Building... the sun is coming up.  His rampage started in the middle of the night and last for a long time, and we as the audience can almost feel it.  Much of these lengthy moments seem to be Jackson and company padding out the length of the film rather than not.  Universal studios was also quite nervous about the length of the film.  When you're the one who made Lord of the Rings, however, you can pretty much call all the shots.  

Let's be honest, though.  In terms of production values, King Kong is masterpiece.  From the art direction to the computer generated monsters, King Kong is a film that really knows how to use eye candy to its full potential. The musical score is also incredibly well done, giving some of the films more emotional moments new life.  These types of things work to keep us sitting through the film for the most part.  In terms of production Peter Jackson needs no lesson on how to make a movie appealing to the eyes and the ears.  He does it very well.  But is King Kong really a story that needs that to be good?

Unfortunately this doens't all rub off too well for everything else.  The ship crew that Carl, Jack and Ann come with?  They're there and we have to listen to them and everything, and the film even gives them a lot of focus, yet in the end they're almost completely useless characters.  What happens to them upon returning from Skull island?  We don't know.  And we should't care... but if that's the case why were we supposed to care about them throughout the whole thing?   Yet when we ARE on the way to skull island it's not like we learn too much about our characters anyway.  It feels like throughout that first half especially, Peter Jackson is just killing time.  Certainly there's no need to rush.  There are plenty of movies that take their time to get to their respective points.  But it's a matter of what that time is spent doing, and King Kong spends much of its time telling us little about the characters we're going on this adventure with.  There's a lot of action in the film, sure, and most of it is thrilling but it's really the only portion of King Kong that really maks a dent.  Aside from that, most of the characters are quite forgettable.  Most of the script is quite forgettable.  And yes, much of that comes from the film's unusual length.  Much of which feels more padded than not. 

It's a visual spectacle and technial achievement, but King Kong doesn't really go much further beyond that.  When it comes to "epic" films there's much more to it than just being bigger and better.  Lord of the Rings was well suited for that style.  On the other hand King Kong isn't a story that needed to be that bloated in the first place... or even blown that far over the top.  In the end it feels like perhaps Peter Jackson was trying a little too hard.  It's a movie that's a little long for a story that was quite simple in and of itself.  Is it a fun movie?  Well, yeah, when it gets going, but that takes a lot of time... and a lot of patience.

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August 19, 2009
I had hoped for so much more when I saw this. It didn't help any that I'd been suffering from an abcess for over a week either. (I hate and fear dentists.) At first I thought maybe my poor opinion of the movie was based on the excruciating pain I was in, but a second viewing much penicillen later didn't make it any better. I did like Kyle Chandler's character of the vain actor Bruce Baxter though.
 
August 19, 2009
Sean, Great review. I felt the same way about Kong when I saw it. I actually left the theatre within the first 1.5 hrs because i had nodded off twice. smh.... but after watching it on DVD i thought it was a brilliant movie that would have really been helped by alot more time in the editing bay.
August 19, 2009
That's the feeling I got.  I remember walking out of the theater and thinking: "Would it have been too much trouble to edit the film down a bit?"
August 19, 2009
yea like they could have pulled a Jurassic Park and cut the whole traveling to the island scene out only show them arriving. That would have shaved about 30 mins from the movie. then it may have been a bit more bearable
August 19, 2009
Ir's so true that this needed to be edited to a more managable length, and yet what happens with the director's cut? MORE footage!
 
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More King Kong (2005 movie) reviews
review by . September 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     After finishing his breathe-taking "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, Peter Jackson realized that he still had the rest of his entire career ahead of him; and he intended to use whatever time he had left. He has, since the "LOTR" films, made but two films; one of them great, one bad. And luckily for me and for you, we're talking about the better film; which is "King Kong". There's a name you may not; or at least, you should know it. It's the name that comes …
review by . December 12, 2010
Stephanie's Favourite Movies: King Kong      If anyone can do grandeur, it's Peter Jackson. I mean, it's the mastermind behind the LOTR films. He is the one that can make a true monster epic for our time, and King Kong is definitely that. Great effects, great acting, great story, just general greatness. Some say that it was too long, I say that you need that much time to tell the story. Some say Adrien Brody isn't hero material. I say that he did just fine.   …
review by . August 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Peter Jackson's remake of the 1933 King Kong is exactly how to do a remake. This movie keeps to the spirit of the original, whilst including state of the art special effects and exciting action scenes. Jackson didn't try to add any silly plot twists or change the setting to 2005, but rather set out to remake the original film as it stood. He deserves a lot of credit for resisting the urge to "improve" the basic plot structure and settings of the original King Kong.   …
review by . July 18, 2010
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ONE OF THE BEST REMAKES EVER
      KING KONG      I remember watching the original Kong film back in the day and every one that followed and could not help but be entertained by every one although the first was the best. I have always enjoyed Kong films and have only rooted against him when he took on the greatest of all time in Godzilla. So after years of nothing new when this film was announced I was actually excited about it when normally I would be like "oh man they are going …
review by . August 22, 2010
Peter Jackson's remake of the 1933 King Kong is exactly how to do a remake. This movie keeps to the spirit of the original, whilst including state of the art special effects and exciting action scenes. Jackson didn't try to add any silly plot twists or change the setting to 2005, but rather set out to remake the original film as it stood. He deserves a lot of credit for resisting the urge to "improve" the basic plot structure and settings of the original King Kong.     The only …
review by . July 15, 2009
Peter Jackson's King King is an excellent film.  I was surprised by how well it was made.  The direction, photography, acting and special effects were just fantastic.  I usually have negative opinions of big budget remakes but this one is excellent.  Even Jack Black is good in this film (I an not a fan of his other work) and I'm impressed how Peter Jackson managed to get a very good performance out of him,  Naomi Watts redefines the role of Fay Wray and Adrien Brody …
review by . February 11, 2009
DVD
It's the height of the Depression in New York City, and down-on-her-luck actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) accepts movie director Carl Denham's (Jack Black) offer to sail off for an adventure and make a movie. Playwright/screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) gets stuck on board and they all sail off for Skull Island, a mysterious place that just happens to be the home of bloodthirsty natives, prehistoric animals, and a 25-foot tall ape called Kong. When the natives kidnap Ann and sacrifice her …
review by . April 29, 2009
This movie was excellent. It borrows a lot from the original with incredible special effects and amazing recreations of 1931 New York! King Kong finally moves like a real gorilla and the destruction that gets wrecked throughout the movie is very convincing! The natives of this movie look like something out of the Exorcist although there was a tribute to the original natives during the scene where Kong is displayed to the New York public at the theater.     There are a lot more …
review by . November 22, 2008
Pretty girl meets monster ape   King Kong has got his charm   In all the most romantic scenes   The girl is on his arm     Naomi's got the strongest arms   She must be doing curls   But Kong has got the safest paws   For catching falling girls     Packed to the brim with CGI   This movie's much too long   Stampeding dinos, "Tremors" worms   Some parts just don't belong …
review by . June 13, 2008
4.5/5 Stars     This remake of one of the most cherished films of all time wins an award for something, a minor one, but still an award and that is that it's probably the best remake of all time. Not much considering its competition, but still it's something. King Kong (2005) is certainly worth a look, but I must say some critical response to the running time of over three hours considering it could easily be two hours and still give the same level of emotion, but in the end …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Wiki

The extended version of Peter Jackson'sKing Kongadds 13 minutes to the running time--fortunately those 13 minutes include two dynamic action scenes and no material has been added to the movie's belabored set-up, which tries to give depth to these quintessentially b-movie characters with a clumsy patchwork of melodrama and in-jokes. But once movie-maker Carl Denham (Jack Black,School of Rock) and his crew finally arrive at Skull Island, the movie kicks into gear with spectacular action, technical wizardry, and genuine feeling. ThoughKongseems crafted to dazzle the eye on the giant screen, the overlong structure improves when you can take an intermission at will. At home, each scene can be approached on its own terms, be it the insanely choreographed battle between Kong and three T. Rexes or the subtle and multi-layered interplay between Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts,Mulholland Drive) and Kong (played, through motion-capture technology, by Andy Serkis, who previously played the similarly animated Gollum in Jackson'sLord of the Rings). The addition of a rampaging ceratops and an underwater race with what the movie's crew dubbed a "piranhadon" not only add more eye candy, but provide some valuable moments of character development. But in the end, that's frosting on the cake; when the movie's weaknesses and strengths are weighed, the emotional power of the fantastical relationship between a woman and a giant ape is a real cinematic achievement.--Bret ...
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Details

Director: Peter Jackson
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: December 14, 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: March 28, 2006
Runtime: 3hr 8min
Studio: Universal Studios, Wingnut Films
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