Americana Movie Month: "King Kong" Review

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In 1933, an overly ambitious movie producer takes his cast and hires a ship crew to travel to the mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady Ann Darrow.
3.5

Americana Movie Month: "King Kong" Review

-- Rating: PG-13 (For frightening adventure, violence, and some disturbing images)
Length: 187 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 14, 2005
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Genre: Action, adventure and drama

In "King Kong," a very ambitious New York movie maker persuades some cast members and crew of a hired ship to go on a trip to the mysterious Skull Island. It is on this island that they meet a giant ape, King Kong, who gets inexplicably smitten by the leading lady of the cast. The film was co-written, produced and directed by Peter Jackson.

"King Kong" opens in the autumn of 1932 in New York City. This was at the height of the Great Depression and Ann Darrow (portrayed by Naomi Watts) has just lost her acting job when she was suddenly hired by Carl Denham (portrayed by Jack Black), a troubled filmmaker. Things seem to be going well for Darrow because her favorite playwright, Jack Driscoll (portrayed by Adrien Brody), is the screenwriter of the new movie. On the way to Skull Island, Darrow and Driscoll start a romantic relationship, the ship's crew develops cold feet for their destination, and a radio message was received about an arrest warrant for Denham.

The crew's attempt to divert from their destination did not succeed and they ran aground on the Island instead. A series of misadventures follows them in the island. For example, one of the sailors is killed; Darrow is captured by the natives who also known Driscoll unconscious. When Darrow is offered as a sacrifice to the mighty Kong, an eight meter tall gorilla, she saves herself by juggling and dancing for the beast. Further controversy and violence ensue, ending with King Kong being chained and taken to Broadway. The beast doesn't take to kindly to this, however, and he breaks loose in New York City.

One of the most important decisions to make while making a movie is its length. While some stories can comfortably be told in one or two hours, others demand more time. For example, there is a general consensus that the story of "Lord of the Rings" could not be told in any duration less than three hours. Interestingly, most people will argue that "King Kong" could have taken less than the three hours it did. Most people, however, have forgiven the filmmakers for this lengthy duration because every single minute of it is worth watching.

Before watching the movie, one can be forgiven for thinking that it is a villainous monster movie. To some extent, this train of thought is not entirely incorrect. On watching the movie, however, it is clear that the monster is very emotional, almost like a human being. Why would people love a monster that smashes, rips and crushes others? Note that this is not a straightforward movie about fighting with a monster but it is more or less an examination of loneliness and its effects on relationships, even if the main character is not a human being. This is one of the reasons why so many people have grown fond of King Kong, even if he occasionally snaps of limbs from his human adversaries.

"King Kong" is not a new movie, and the original was even shorter than this one, but it has retained its allure over the years. Some people attribute this not to the story, but to other people. It is the way in which this version was made that has ensured that its appeal does not fade. For sure, this latest version of "King Kong" is filled with a lot of sublimity and gimmickry, a combination that cannot fail to enthrall in the hands of a talented director such as Jackson. The director has been quoted as saying that his love affair with the story began when he watched the original film several decades ago. His first attempt of the remake of the Merian C. Cooper classic went south, but he is not the kind of person to give up that easily. He just put the project on hold, made the wonderful trilogy "The Lord of the Rings," and then came back to it.

Being that the relationship between Darrow and Kong is central to the storyline, it was fundamental to get it right and the filmmakers nailed it. It is a story that is sad but still fun to watch. On the issue of casting, some people were aghast to learn that Black had been chosen to play Denham. In fact, others still maintain this view even after watching the movie. They allege that the actor is not in his element here and that his constant smirking even while delivering serous lines does not come out well. By the end of the movie, however, the consensus is that the collective fluidity and cohesion of the cast far outweighs their individual shortcomings. "King Kong" is indeed a movie worth watching.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5