Lord of the Kongs
We’re getting to the point now where movie remakes are beginning to fold back on themselves. Last year saw the release of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, War of the Worlds (which CAN be jammed into the ‘remake’ bin if you use the heal of your boot), and the confusing Land of the Dead… which wasn’t a remake so much as a continuation of a series which has already begun to be remade.. Yeah, I know!
Anyway – to read my review of the remake to rule them all – read more!
The advantages to remaking a movie from twenty or thirty years ago are obvious: Updated effects, modernised sensibility, a chance to take a proven story back to people’s wallets… I mean, theatres, and the opportunity for another team of people to explore their interpretation of the story.
It’s not all beer and skittles though. There are also huge disadvantages that come along with the remake: People already know the story (in the case of King Kong, everyone already knows that Kong is gonna ‘buy the farm’ at the end of the movie). There is a charm to a movie that has aged and exists outside current social sensibilities; When you watch a 20 or 30 year old movie you’re not just seeing an old story, you’re seeing how stories were told, you’re seeing what was and wasn’t socially acceptable, you’re seeing what people were entertained by all those years ago. You’re seeing the origin of today’s film making techniques (including the dodgy special effects.. YOU HEAR ME LUCAS!). And, you have to break through the fondness that people who are old enough to use phrases like “it’s not all beer and skittles” and “buy the farm'” have for the 20 year old version of the film.
Peter (‘Meet the Feebles’ > ‘Lord of the Rings’) Jackson has approached this retelling of the King Kong story from a similar launch spot which aided in making the Lord of the Rings movies such a vast success: He has attempted to tell the story as though the occurrences in it were real. There’s no fantasy gloss over events in King Kong. Yes, they are fanciful but we’re presented with what almost feels like a documentary more so than a big budget blockbuster. What becomes obvious, as the movie progresses, is that Jackson is one of those with a fondness for the earlier versions of this movie – however he meets his obligation to update the sensibility of the story to suit a modern audience with a great deal of conviction.
The underlying moral of the King Kong story is that the giant ape which gets loose in the city of New York, smashes cars, takes on the U.S Army, goes about climbing things and swatting aeroplanes ISN’T the monster in this creature feature.. Man is. Yeah, that’s right, I said it… We’re the monsters!
There are points at the beginning of the film that will have some squirming in anticipation of the arrival of the huge monkey as it takes quite some time before the story progresses far enough for Kong’s grand introduction. But don’t spend too much energy squirming else you’ll miss out on some fine character establishment. The particularly interesting performance from Jack Black is something of a highlight in this movie, juxtaposed against the (underrated, up comer) Colin Hanks’ goody goody ‘Preston’, Black’s Carl Denham, a driven film maker, is probably his finest performance yet. While Carl Denham appears at first to be little more than the standard, scheming, always on the scam, lowlife, that Black is always associated with, however as the movie progresses and more layers are pealed away, Denham is shown to be a callus and manipulative ogre who’s inability to consider the consequences of, or take responsibility for, his actions make him far more of a monster than Kong.
Naomi Watts delivers an utterly heart breaking performance as one of Carl Denham’s first victims. A struggling actress on the verge of of selling her virtue for a hot meal she is set upon by Denham and conned into joining him and his motley crew as the head off to an uncharted island to film what he believes will be his masterpiece. Onboard the hi-jacked ship Ann Darrow (Watts) finally meets her idol, writer Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody), also a victim to Denham’s desire to get his own way, the pair soon begin to fall for each other, however the bond is soon stretch to breaking when Ann ends up in the clutches of Kong.
What follows is some of the most impressive film making seen to date. Not only because of the mind numbing special effects, and action sequences that will have you on the edge of your seat, but because of the subtly with which Watts, Jackson, a team of special effects artists and Andy Serkis (who plays both Kong and a ship mate, Lumpy) manage to craft a believable bond between Ann and the massive ape.
There’s only one word suitable for summing up this movie, and it’s: WOW
Just don’t cry.. You’ll look like an idiot.. it’s just a giant monkey after all….. BUT I LOVE HIM!