Review by Erik Samdahl.
"King Kong" is being praised everywhere as one of the best films of the year, if not THE best film of the year. Heck, it was even praised on this website by our original reviewer. But, by saying this are we saying "King Kong" compares to "The Lord of the Rings," Jackson's little-known Oscar winners? When does an action movie become something more, and has "King Kong" achieved that?
Coming in at over three hours long, "King Kong" tells the story of B-grade director Carl Denham (Jack Black) who takes the cast and crew of his latest film on a boat trip around the world to find a secret place called Skull Island. His one-track obsession pollutes his mind as he is willing to risk it all to make the perfect film, even after they are attacked by deadly villagers, his leading lady (Naomi Watts) is offered up as sacrifice to a giant ape and in an attempt to save her most people on his team are killed by dinosaurs. You should all know the "King Kong" story by this day and age, and how it ends, but the film is a nonstop adrenaline ride mixed with dramatic sentiment that, surprisingly, really hits the mark.
But does the mixture make "King Kong" the number one Oscar candidate?
"King Kong" is essentially three movies in one, each act a completely separate and different type of film. The first 45 minutes are devoted to character development, and while there is no real action in this time the movie works incredibly well. The pacing is never slow and the characters are well written, even if I never bought in to the on-screen chemistry between Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody.
When the ship finally reaches the island, you know you still have over two hours of action and suspense to go. The second act starts off great, as Peter Jackson delivers some of the scariest and most well-done tribal people ever to grace the silver screen. The villagers, who almost look like the Orcs from "Lord of the Rings," are the best part of the film - unfortunately, they only get a few minutes of screen time. The movie proceeds with an absolute onslaught of action, as Watts is taken by King Kong and the rest of the cast proceeds inland to battle dinosaurs, bugs and other weird creatures. For what had to be at least an hour and a half the characters get into one situation after the other with little break in between.
This is good for a while, until the action gets old. I never thought I'd say it, but "King Kong" has too much action. After the characters escape from one surreal situation after the next, it finally begins to wear on you. Apparently most people are not having this same reaction, but by the time the characters get attacked by giant bugs, I was ready to move on. A good 20 or 30 minutes could have been cut out and the movie would have flowed much, much better.
The third act, set in New York, rebuilds the proper level of tension. This third act properly balances the action and drama, as there is plenty of excitement while at the same time the film is building up to you-know-what. The third act, especially the sequence on the Empire States Building, is mesmerizing and spellbinding.
All in all, "King Kong" is a very good film, but a film that is overly hyped. It is well-acted, especially by Black and Watts, and looks great. Jackson has delivered another fine directorial job; he has turned an action movie into something more. However, it is still an action movie, and an action movie that, while delivering the proper amount of drama and emotion, is so obsessed with hitting the audience with every CGI creature known to man that it stumbles slightly in what should have been the most entertaining segment. "King Kong" is entertaining from beginning to end, but it loses a bit in the middle and only recovers at the very end.
"King Kong" may be one of the better films of the year, but it is not the award-winning masterpiece many are claiming it is.
Review by Nathan Samdahl.
Peter Jackson once again reminds us why we go to the movies. Jackson has created a film that not only is the most entertaining of the year, but flat out is the best of the year. At least so far. King Kong is a feast for the eyes, with stunning special effects, solid acting and some of the best action scenes ever seen on film. Jackson proves why he deserves every penny of the hefty price tags required for his films. This movie will be big.
King Kong begins as King Kong should, in New York. Part of what makes this film so successful is Jackson's ability to capture the period of the 1930s and capture the spirit of the original King Kong. The opening montage showing the bustle of New York seems taken out of a movie seventy years ago. Although with a much wider frame and much better camera movements. And then without further delay we are introduced to the main characters, played by Naomi Watts and Jack Black. Even though the sequence in New York takes a while to develop, Jackson and the editors know for exactly how long they can hold the audience's attention.
After New York the film moves into the boat sequence, which further develops the one-track mind of Black's character, Carl Denham, and sees the beginning of Watt's relationship with the screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). Throughout the film, Jackson stresses the film within a film idea. At the beginning, we are confronted with a room full of stuffy producers, and on the boat we constantly see Black shooting seemingly random shots for a grandiose film of which Driscoll has only written 15 pages. For the rest of the movie, the camera acts as an appendage to Black's body, as he takes it everywhere. That is until he finds something better than a film to bring back to New York.
Finally, after about forty minutes or so we arrive at Skull Island, the location for the middle part of the movie. And what a location it is. The graphics are once again amazing and the makeup for the inhabitants of the island is eerily reminiscent of the Orcs - although much scarier as they are actually humans. It looks as if they landed in a leprosy colony - unfortunately they aren't that lucky. After meeting these wonderful people, the movie shifts into a much higher gear, as the rest of the film flies by.
The pacing is helped as three or four of the biggest and most visually stimulating action scenes ever conceived are thrown in. Yeah, that might help. Oh and I forgot one thing - the ape. King Kong is a landmark in computer animation, crushing the previous one also set by Jackson (Gollum). The detail and care put into Kong's design are obvious. And in a movie about a giant ape, I would expect nothing less.
While I am skipping over many other strong aspects of the film such as the acting and the plot structure, this movie is all about the visuals. This is not a film that appeals to just one demographic. This is a movie for anyone who enjoys being entertained, being wowed, for anyone who insists that a movie should be an experience. This is going to be a classic, one so good that it knocks the original out of the park.
Deluxe Extended Edition DVD Review
Little needs to be said about the quality of Peter Jackson's King Kong. It is a high quality picture that superbly blends exciting and sometimes outrageous action with drama and seriousness, despite the fact that it is about a giant ape that loves a hot blonde.
Of course, the King Kong DVD that hit stores early this year was only a prelude to the real DVD, which hit stores November 14th. This new version, a three-disc Deluxe Extended Edition, includes a three-and-a-half hour version of the movie and a plethora of special effects. I am scared to even delve into the special features for worries of getting lost, but I did watch the new version and it is, shall we say, quite good. The extra half hour that has been added to the film does little to truly enhance the story, especially compared to the extended versions of Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Nevertheless, the extra half hour consists of some great action sequences that were cut for a variety of reasons, most of which length.
My biggest complaint about the standard version was that there was too much action in the middle and not enough character development at the start. I was expecting Jackson to have cut a lot of the relationship development between Adrien Brody and Naomi Watts, but surprisingly none of that is to be found. Instead, huge chunks of action sequences with new monsters never before seen are the highlights of this extended version, and while I would have hated sitting through an even longer second act at theaters, it is nice to have more carnage to feast the eyes on while sitting on my couch. The action sequences are all very well done and of high quality; they simply were unnecessary to the story arc.
If you are watching on your computer, you'll notice that the screenplays for both the 2006 and the never-made 1996 version pop up. That's the extent I've drilled into the special features, but the Extended Version is enough to warrant a new purchase, even if you own the standard DVD (which was completely without special features).
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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