KING KONG

"Overblown, Overstated Monster of a Remake"

NoneLightModerateHeavy
Language
Violence
Sex
Nudity

Summary:

In KING KONG, director Peter Jackson follows the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy with this overblown, though sometime impressive, monster of a remake set in the 1930s, starring Jack Black and Naomi Watts. Brimming with pagan elements and an environmentalist tone, this adventure film about the famed excitable primate has some exciting, humorous and enchanting moments, but it is a bloated overstatement, both exceptionally violent and uncomfortably long.

Review:

In KING KONG, director Peter Jackson follows the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy with this overblown, monster of a remake set in the 1930s, starring Jack Black and Naomi Watts. Brimming with pagan elements, this adventure movie about the famed excitable primate is a bloated, but sometimes impressive, overstatement, both exceptionally violent and uncomfortably long.

Carl Denham, played by Jack Black, is an opportunistic filmmaker with a P.T. Barnum-like appetite for showmanship. On the run from the law due to shady business practices, Denham deceptively recruits blonde actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), along with playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), Ship-captain Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann), and a host of others to shoot a movie on the secluded Skull Island. Following a rough arrival they are rudely greeted by the island’s savage natives, who kidnap Ann to make her a sacrificial offering to their god-in-residence, King Kong. Kong takes Ann captive and subsequently battles a myriad of dangerous oversized creatures, including Tyrannosaurs, giant insects and swarming bats. Such enormous adversaries likewise stand in the way of the crew as they quest to rescue the young beauty from the island’s most formidable beast.

Although the crewmembers collectively decide to rescue Ann from Kong, their motivations for doing so vary. Jack, the wide-eyed, sensitive writer is motivated by his love for Ann, while the young, sophomoric Jimmy (Jamie Bell) longs for the heroic stoicism usually glorified in novels. The ever starstruck Carl, however, has less noble aspirations. He sees Ann’s liberation as an opportunity for great film footage. A textbook ethical egoist, Carl never loses sight of his self-interest, perpetually driven by his greedy pursuits. He’ll do whatever it takes to gain money and fame, regardless of who gets deceived, hurt, or even killed in the process. Interestingly, the script bestows Carl with a bulk of the funny lines, and Black’s delivery is adequate. His charm, however, perhaps obscures the fact that, in a movie about monsters, Carl’s debauched behavior makes him the vilest of them all. Not hidden is the fact that one individual’s sins often cause many to suffer, and the consequences of Carl’s ruthlessness is allocated in colossal proportions.

The most important relationship in the story is that of Ann and Kong. Although initially terrified of the beast, a bond quickly develops between the two as Kong protects her from blood-thirsty monsters that lurk in every corner. Like other spins on the beauty-and-the-beast narrative, Ann is able to see past Kong’s gruff, misunderstood exterior; and, the monster reciprocates with a fierce and jealous protectiveness that subsequently leads to tragedy.

In one of the more endearing scenes of the movie, Ann playfully dances for the gorilla, and he bellows an approving, thunderous laugh. Naomi Watts does a wonderful job capturing Ann’s melancholy-tinged affinity for Kong, and the movie could have benefited from additional scenes showing their mutual affection transpire.

Although the original King Kong movie was released over 70 years ago, the character’s popularity has endured. Since its debut, an array of remakes, sequels, and medium-spanning spin-offs (including cartoons and video games) have sustained King Kong’s status as a pop culture icon. This means that even those who haven’t seen the original motion picture are likely to have at least some vague acquaintance with its storyline. Such familiarity poses all sorts of challenges in remakes. For example, the story must be told in a fresh way while retaining its timeless nature.

Jackson attempts to answer this challenge with magnitude. With breathtaking special effects and frenetic action scenes, the large computer-designed creatures are both scary and amusing, delivering an abundance of thrills and seat-squirming moments. Unfortunately, Jackson doesn’t know when to let up. Apparently too undisciplined (or self-indulgent) to contain himself, he behaves like a child determined to use every color in his 64-count crayon box on a single page. Instead of condensing the pandemonium in favor of character development, Jackson tries to beat the audience into submission with visual tableaux and violence.

Compared to the original KING KONG, this one softens Kong’s image a little bit and makes the two male leads less heroic. Thus, the emotional heart of the movie is Ann Darrow’s growing affection for the huge ape and her attempt to protect him from the brutality of human civilization. This helps to give the movie a pro-environmentalist tone that attacks the capitalist forces in human civilization that want to exploit and, eventually, kill Kong. By making Carl Denham such a bad guy, the movie seems to dilute Denham’s famous last line – “It was Beauty that killed the Beast.”

Before transporting Kong to New York to be the centerpiece of his latest money-making scheme, Carl gleefully exclaims “The whole world will pay to see this!” Costing $207 million to create, it appears Universal and Peter Jackson had similar expectations, but, while the latest stab at Merian C. Cooper’s classic is a consistently impressive spectacle, it never manages to scratch very far beyond its glossy finish. The movie’s flaws mirror those of its 25-foot gorilla headliner. At moments exciting, humorous and enchanting, it ultimately fails because of its relentless and brutish larger-than-life excessiveness.

Content:

(PaPa, EE, AcapAcap, Ro, B, C, LL, VVV, N, A, D, MM)

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Dominant, strong, mixed pagan worldview with strong environmentalist tone containing anti-capitalist message and with Romantic undertones where several characters’ actions are dictated by his or her emotions and/or the desire for sensual pleasures or material goods, including several disturbing and scary scenes containing tribal dancing and pagan worship, with some moral elements, and vague Christian worldview elements depicting both man’s depraved sinful nature and the far-reaching temporal consequences of sin;

Foul Language:
14 mostly strong profanities and two obscenities;

Violence:
A large number of violent scenes with island natives and creatures, including people being stabbed with spears, scratching, biting and beating each other with clubs, dead people shown lying in pools of blood, several men knocked off of a high cliff by giant creatures, one man swallowed by a toothed worm-like creature, numerous gunshots at Kong and other creatures, a long battle between Kong and bullet-firing planes, as well as many other violent scenes of creatures attacking each other, at one point Kong rips a Tyrannosaur’s jaw apart;

Sex:
No sex, but some kissing;

Nudity:
Numerous scenes of scantily clothed natives, including upper male nudity, two very brief scenes with scantily clad women depicted on movie posters, but otherwise no nudity used in a sexual way;

Alcohol Use:
Light alcohol consumption in several scenes;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Smoking of cigarettes in two scenes;

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Several instances of deception, theft, greed, and bribery.

In Brief:

In KING KONG, director Peter Jackson follows the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy with this adventure film set in the 1930s. Starring Jack Black as an opportunistic filmmaker and Naomi Watts as an obscure actress, they travel with their crew to shoot a movie on the secluded Skull Island. There they encounter the 25-foot primate Kong, the island’s savage natives, and a myriad of other dangerous oversized creatures. Foolishly, they eventually transport this peril back to civilization.

Brimming with pagan elements, KING KONG is sometimes impressive and entertaining, but it is exceptionally violent and uncomfortably long. With breathtaking special effects and frenetic action scenes, the large computer-designed creatures are both scary and amusing, delivering an abundance of thrills and seat-squirming moments. Regrettably, Jackson doesn’t know when to let up. Although it is an impressive spectacle, this remake of the 1933 classic never manages to scratch beyond its glossy finish. Extending over three hours, KING KONG fails to use its length for character development. Instead, it attempts to beat the audience into submission. The movie’s flaws mirror those of its enormous gorilla. At moments exciting, humorous and enchanting, it fails because of relentless, brutish excessiveness.