Cast: Andy Serkis, Jack Black, Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Kyle Chandler, Colin Hanks, John Sumner, Craig Hall, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell, Lobo Chan…
Screenplay by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson
Based on a story by: Merian C. Cooper, and Edgar Wallace
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Genre: Action, Adventure
Running Time: 3 hours, 7 minutes (there’s also a 3 hour, 20 minute version)
Released: December 14, 2005 (U.S.)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Peter Jackson dreamed of recreating King Kong since he was a child. The original movie (from 1933) was the very reason he went into filmmaking. With all of that build up, and all those years of work, how did Jackson’s vision turn out?
A failing movie director (Carl Denham, played by Jack Black) travels from New York City to Skull Island (a “we don’t speak of it” sort of place) to make a movie. With him are a film crew, an actor, an actress, and a playwright he’s made into a (reluctant) screenwriter. It’s not really made clear if Denham knows what awaits them on said island, or not, but he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to get there.
Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) becomes Kong’s captive, after natives of the island offer her as a sacrifice. Ann is not as damsel in distress-like as she was in the original (played then by the iconic Fay Wray). This was 2005, after all, and the screenplay was co-written by two women.
That’s about all of the plot I’ll give you, but much of it plays out like other Kong films, just longer… much longer.
Adrien’s Role: Jack Driscoll
Jack Driscoll in King Kong is easily one of Adrien Brody‘s top five performances. Hands down. However, King Kong isn’t in my top 10 of his best films. In other words, the character is better than the movie. That’s not to say the movie is bad, because it’s not, it’s just that Jack/Adrien is much stronger than King Kong is as a whole.
Yes, I realize that as his biggest fan this side of his parents, I’m a little biased.
Jack starts off as a somewhat cerebral playwright, who seems way too elegant to be hanging around with the likes of Carl Denham. He is definitely too refined to be on the ship Carl has them traveling on. By the end of the film, though, Jack has become the rugged and heroic bad@$$ we never saw coming.
What I Enjoyed
As I mentioned above, Adrien’s performance was my favorite thing. The fact that he did his own stunt driving is pretty cool, too.
Seeing Adrien with Thomas Kretschmann again was a joy. The two shared a very powerful scene in The Pianist, so it’s a sense of nostalgia in a way (even though this was only made three years later). Kretschmann was impressive as Captain Englehorn; definitely one of the film’s bright spots.
As a native of the Sacramento, California area, I greatly enjoyed the presence of Colin Hanks as Denham’s assistant, Preston. Preston is almost what I call an “audience character,” meaning the one who says what we’re thinking, or calls people out for their shenanigans. Preston is relatable, very endearing, and I wish he had more screen time.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s just stand up and applaud for Mr. Andy Serkis. Holy cow. He put so much work into this film, including traveling to Africa to study gorilla behavior in the wild. He was absolutely breathtaking as Kong, and a lot of fun as Lumpy (the ship’s cook).
What I Didn’t Like
The bug scene (in the cave) is my least favorite section of the film. It’s just so CGI-tastic that the actors couldn’t keep up. It’s even Adrien’s weakest moment of the film. That’s saying something. If Adrien isn’t convincing, there’s a problem.
Similarly, the running dinosaur scene is another I could’ve done without. However, it is my daughter’s favorite part, so, perhaps I’m just too old to appreciate it.
It pains me to say this, because I think he’s a good person and I generally enjoy his work, but… Jack Black was miscast. He realized that himself, though, according to the making of features. Carl Denham is arguably the lead character, so he carries much of the story. It’s kind of noticeable when the main character is the weak link. Black is fun, he’s just trying too hard.
Speaking of main characters who are lacking, I don’t think Naomi Watts’ Ann Darrow was as good as she could’ve been either. It wasn’t exactly a bad performance — on the contrary — but there were a few inconsistencies (especially with her accent). Honestly, I feel the areas in which the character failed are likely Peter Jackson’s fault, not Watts’.
Generally, King Kong is a good film, but it could have been great. It should have been great, actually. It had all the potential, it just fell short… and ran long.
Movie Overall: 6.5/10
Brody Performance: 8/10