ninth symphony films - movie reviews

KING KONG (2005)

DIRECTOR  -  peter jackson

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  adventure

LENGTH  -  187 minutes

RELEASED  -  16 december 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  king kong

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $207,000,000
king kong - a shot from the film


buy the soundtrack from king kong at

buy the soundtrack from king kong at

In 1933 new york, an overly ambitious movie producer coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to mysterious skull island, where they encounter kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady ann darrow.

peter jackson was paid $20 million to direct this film, the highest salary ever paid to a film director in advance of production.


picture from king kong

picture from king kong

picture from king kong

picture from king kong

picture from king kong


three out of four possible stars

Since laying his hands on the first installment of his box office behemoth, "The Lord of the Rings," Peter Jackson has been the personality to take mythical vistas to the big screen. Having dreamed since childhood of putting his own version of the classic tale of King Kong on the screen, the box office success of his Rings trilogy has afforded him the financial freedom to create this heavy-budget tale. And having been the creative force behind so much box office might, it's all but certain Jackson was given a largely free rein to do whatever he wished with the story of King Kong.

And if one were to compare the look and feel of King Kong to his other projects, Jackson's recognizable method of filmmaking would be easy to spot in multiple areas. From the swiftly diving camera-work displaying a scene created entirely in a computer to the long, lingering close-ups of the characters' faces whenever they've got more to say with their eyes than their dialogue, King Kong definitely looks like a Peter Jackson film.

And one of the first things potential audience members might point out would be the length of the film. Now, Jackson and his crew certainly don't let you twiddle your thumbs during any part of the movie, but the running time probably should have been brought down just a reel or two. Despite the incredible special effects shots that litter nearly every frame of the film, every once in a while the picture's action sequences could have been tightened. Because just how long do we need to go dinosaur bowling?

No, the characters don't take a bunch of pins to knock down a set of dinosaurs, but during an especially visually smashing jungle romp, the main characters are nearly flattened by a trampling heard of long-tailed dinosaurs. With the advances of twelve years of technical research behind them, the CGI artists in this film have blown the effects shots of landmark digital film Jurassic Park out of the water (though the Spielberg film stills stands up well despite the march of time).

Constantly at war with one another in this film are the performances which must bear up to the computer graphic-laden scenery. So much of the film is so visually chaotic that several lengthy close-ups of various actors' faces are almost necessary to remind us that there are indeed flesh and blood characters present in the film. Though it bears mentioning that the CGI masterpiece that is the King Kong gorilla certainly should be lauded as a large step forward toward a realistic portrayal of emotion from a computer based character.

What will strike viewers about the look of the character is how much expression comes from Kong's eyes. Working far beyond the animatronics movements of any humanized beast already put to the screen, the emotions and feelings of the character are so obvious that you'd swear it was possible to know the thoughts in the animal's head. Andy Serkis, the performer responsible for the CGI character of "Gollum" in the Rings movies is given a performance credit as King Kong and it seems he and the graphic artists have come even further toward complete digital reality through his character in this film.

Although the CGI takes center stage for much of the film, praise must be given to the human performers who must have felt as though they were completing a decathlon during the filming. Naomi Watts, who plays budding starlet "Ann Darrow," seems to have been jerked around for a solid month in Kong's grip just to get the number of shots needed to piece the film together. But her role's value doesn't come solely from the physicality of her performance. A great deal of her time spent in the jungle with King Kong is wordless, but she is an expressive actor, easily able to carry the audience's attention.

Co-star Adrien Brody, who plays "Jack Driscoll," the screenwriter of the picture within a picture featured in the film, also puts up a good fight against the heavy weight of the CGI mania. And, like Watts, he makes it easy to forget the three-hour running time. One of the most surprising performances of the film would be that of Jack Black, who plays "Carl Denham," the nearly insane and usually tyrannical movie director bent on capturing Kong's story on film.

What will surprise audiences about his performance is how straight he plays the character. Having appeared as several slightly insane (or very insane) characters in the past, seeing Black go almost completely serious for a role is a first - and black handles the transition well, even throwing in a few lines of calm humor when the situation calls for it. Like the films that Robin Williams grows a beard for (and goes serious for), it seems possible that Black too will be able to perform with success in multiple genres.

Other supporting actors are also cast well, with young Jamie Bell giving a spot-on performance as an adventurous sailor (and getting the American accent 100%) and Colin Hanks putting his genes to good use as Jack Black's filmmaking partner. Thomas Kretschmann delivers a steady performance as the ship's captain and Evan Parke is impressive as one of the ship's officers. One of the only things to take away from his performance is the oddly disconnected sub-plot he shares with Jamie Bell.

Jamie's character looks up to Parke's and while the friendship is developed well, their story almost seems disconnected entirely from the main plot. It's almost as if the sub-plot was introduced to plump up the narrative, but wasn't fully integrated into the heart of the movie. But perhaps that's what the computer graphics are for - to take your mind of a few inconsistencies in plot and pacing.

Peter Jackson and his talented digital artists are able to create the most immersive of feature film worlds, but the one area he could yet improve is that of pacing and story. He is fortunate in that he is able to make such good casting choices and that his technical crew is so accomplished as these groups have a tendency to make you forget the difficult thread of the story and plot. King Kong is not Peter Jackson's best work, though it might just be his most beautiful. Utilizing the every-impressive visual scope of his native New Zealand, Jackson has created a beautiful adventure featuring strong performances and a stunning CGI King Kong.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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