I saw the new King Kong yesterday.
Forget the 2 previous editions. Forget Mighty Joe Young, even, for that matter.
This ain't yer Parents, or Grandparents, Big Monkey in the City film.
This film is serious, Adventure Film movie making, on a world class order, by Peter Jackson.
Aside from the budget, displayed on the screen in all it's glory, the other way you know this is that characters die, and not just characters you take the journey with, but folks on the street who just get in the way, or are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In most Giant Monster movies of old, cars, trains, and people on the street got whacked around, but the viewer didn't get the sense that there was real peril, and death in the air.
This film takes such films onto an all new level.
The film is just over 3 hours long, but you do not even notice, or even begin to care that the film could be over soon until the story returns to New York, and then all you feel is a sense of sadness as you realize the innevitable ending is near.
The Music, evoking sounds, songs, and themes of the period was enjoyable, and the Cinematography, and Special Effects, will have them talking, actually drooling, at Oscar time.
The style is of a seat-of-your-pants, hold-on-to-your-hat, don't blink, or you will miss something, type of film making not seen in a while.
The film has a few tongue in cheek moments, and even references the original in a couple scenes, and in references to those responsible for the original but, at its core is just a Love story, of a most sensational, but also sweet, variety.
By the end of this film, when you should feel tired, and exhausted, you instead feel the enormous heartbreak, and sense of something lost, that Ann Darrow does.
The Acting is uniformally outstanding from top to bottom.
Naomi Watts plays Ann Darrow with a strength, and courage, that belies the fact her character was close to living from day to day, before joining this voyage in desperation.
Jack Black, as the film maker/empresario ( Jackson Stand-in ), Carl Denham, out to make a film, and a buck, any way he can, on a less than shoestring budget, is perfectly cast as this shady, yet caring in his own way, character.
He holds back his more familiar clownishness, adding in a dash of Monomania.
2 characters in Carls Film crew stand out: His anxious assistant (Colin Hanks) and lantern-jawed star (Kyle Chandler).
Chandler brought smiles to my face because he displayed the duality of the actors life so well: The types of character you play on screen don't neccessarily match the type of person you are off ).
Adrien Brody plays Jack Driscoll , a writer, who gains the affection of Ann ( she loved his writing before they met ), and is the one individual, other than The Great Big Ape, who truly cares about what happens to Ann.
Brody is perfect in displaying the courage, and resolve to go after Ann despite all common sense.
Thomas Kretschmann as the unsavory captain, who has the heart to keep coming to the rescue, inspite of himself, plays his role to the hilt.
Of the crew 2 characters stand out: The noble first mate (Evan Parke) and his skittish young protégé (Jamie Bell).
Andy Serkis ( Gollum of The Rings Trilogy ) as the heart, soul, and expressiveness ( the man in the Monkey make-up ) of King Kong is a revelation, and shows us the inteligence, strength, and caring of this Great Ape. ( He also plays the Ships Cook )
The chemistry between him and Naomi, burns the screen, and you can readily toss aside all disbelief that such an ecounter could ever take place.
With this performance, added to that in the Rings, Serkis is redefining what acting can be in the Digital Age.
Naomi reminded of Hollywod actresses of old ( 1930's - 1950's ) with their glamour and emotional directness.
Together they are one of the Great Couples of Hollywood Film.
The Screenplay deserves award consideration because, from start to finish you are taken on a journey from civilization, to an at once hellish, yet also edenic, world, and back again, in a cohesive, intelligent, and thoughtful story arc.
The film begins by evoking Depression Era life, from the streets, and soup kitchens, to theatres, and playhouses, then heads to sea as our characters find their ways to the ship, and the voyage gets underway.
The voyage serves as a way to introduce the mysterious destination, for us to get to know the characters, and for a little romance between Ann and Jack.
The first look at the island is all the indication the viewer needs to know that things were likely going to get a tad ugly before this adventure is over.
The exploration of the frightening, supposedly abandoned, village with its wall keeping the jungle at bay, gives you a sense of dread, that explodes into life when the terrifying, and utterly terrified to their very souls, villagers are introduced.
The Politically Correct might feel that the grunting, wild-eyed savagery, of the Islanders, and later "Broadway" treatment of same was something the film could have done without, but not me.
This is film, folks, so let your imagination run wild.
Use whatever images, stories, and history that you feel can help you tell the tale the best way you know how, and if others put motives, and thoughts, in your head that serve their agenda, and not yours, then that's their problem, and not yours.
From this point, as our adventurers manage to get back to the ship, then Ann is kidnapped, and sacrificed to Kong, then our adventurers charge forward to mount a rescue/filmmaking expedition, the whole mood of the film changes.
Indiana Jones style action meets Jurassic Park size monsters, with a true sense of danger, bloodshed, and death, lurking around every rock, and bush.
Oh, and the romantic focus changes as well.
Even though you know that Ann and the love struck Ape will reach the top of the Empire State Building the adventures they go through in the jungle, as they get acquainted, are no less heartpoundingly dangerous, and life threatening, for that.
As for Ann's intrepid rescuers:
The sense of wonder first felt as Carl, and his male "Star" film a scene in front of a pack of Brontosauruses turns into a non-stop fight for survival ( beginning with a nightmarish "Pamplona" sequence with the Brontos and Raptor-like critters ) that puts all thought of rescuing Ann, almost off the agenda for the day.
The series of encounters that our rescue mission has with the creatures of Skull Island, are terrifying, visually stunning, action set pieces in which the viewer realizes that anything is possible, and anyone can die.
One collection of horrifying critters had me laughing because they reminded me of a vision marrying a critter from The Naked Lunch with one from the original Dune.
As all of this is going on King Kong is coming under the spell of a very brave Damsel in Distress.
Even as she tries to escape Ann is discovering that there's more than brute savagery in the tiny brain of her captor.
He has a sense of humor, a thing for beauty, great strength, pride, and courage, a sense of protectiveness, and his feelings can be hurt.
When it comes to defending his turf, and those he cares for angering Kong is not the best of ideas.
He is King of All He Surverys for a reason and, when pissed, will kick your sorry Ass to remain so.
By the time she is "rescued" Ann is no longer trying to escape, and actually cares somewhat for the big hairy galoot.
The various creatures the humans encounter, including fanged worms and giant vampire crickets are startling.
The Big Battle between Kong ( Ann in one hand at several junctures ) and 3 T-Rex in a wrestling match in a deep ravine hung with vines is an instant classic that will be long remembered in the annals of filmmaking.
There comes a point, however, where even the screenwriters realized that you could only pile up the spectacular escapes, from critters unimaginable, for so long before you REALLY start having to kill off the MAJOR, major characters, and that the story needs to move to the next phase.
So Carl, and the Captain head back to the Village to set a trap for Kong, and Jack sets off, alone, and unarmed, to rescue his Love before she becomes a tooth pick for a Giant Ape.
Okay, so it's silly, and so Old School Hollywood, but it works.
Jack quickly finds where Ann and Kong are, and awakens her.
Only problem is that he awakens Kong too, and him, and Ann, have to take a dive into the river to get a decent headstart, on the Ape, for the rush back to the village.
Depspite a bit of carnage chloroforming, hog tying, and stuffing into a cargo hold a pissed off Giant Ape turns out to be rather easy, and the scene shifts to The Big Apple.
Upon returning to civilization the story goes from adventure to tragedy, and does so with style, humor, horror, violence, and sadness.
The mysteries of the world truly can be experienced for the price of admission, and both the democracy, and cynicism of that statement are on full display as Carl puts on his show in front of those willing to shell out the money for the priviledge.
Meanwhile we learn that Jack, and Ann have no part in the spectacle.
We all know what happens next:
The safety precautions on stage prove less than sufficient, and King Kong breaks free and goes on a rampage.
But it turns into a rampage with a single minded-focus.
He see a blond, picks her up, tosses her aside when he realizes it's not Ann, and looks for another.
The violence, and destruction, in the streets is not the campy variety: You truly believe it especially when those poor women, not found to be "Ann", are unceremoniously flung aside.
The moment when Kong, and his girl, re-unite is a moving moment that is topped by their journey of escape through Central Park.
It is here that the ingenuity of this giant ape, and his sense of humor, are allowed to shine for one more glorious moment.
Finally the Top of the Empire State Building is reached, and one of the most Iconic Screen Battles of all time is re-imagined for a new generation.
It is an exalted moment in film, shameless in its tearing at our heart strings, and yet absurd and sublime, as well as vulgar and grand all at once.
Naomi has to seriously struggle to stay where she is, then comes to the realization that she cares so much for what is happening to this big palooka that she mush do SOMETHING to protect him, and possibly save his life.
Of course we know what happens next, as Kong, a mixture of pain, and love, in his dying eyes, takes the final plunge.
In my book this film gets 5 out of 5 stars.