Monkey business on a GM scale
BY CHOOSING to remake King Kong, Peter Jackson set himself a task higher than the Empire State Building, but, in doing so, was able to fulfil a lifelong dream. The ape’s great, the girl’s terrific, sets are out of this world, but the director clearly doesn’t believe in the word “enough”. Jackson ups the visual effects ante with each passing minute, making the wonder and excitement, initially inspiring, gradually ebb away.
Obviously in tune with the story’s underlying emotions and his own boyish love for adventure fantasy, Jackson has stuck to the outline of the 1933 classic. However, he has added (and padded) the tale with action sequences, knowing dialogue and plot twists that wink back at audiences familiar with the original. By combining the best elements of the 1933 and 1976 versions with his own contributions, he has made what many will consider to be the definitive King Kong. The story is much the same, but the experience is wholly different.
Ann Darrow (Watts), a young and starving actress, is recruited off the streets of Depression-era New York City by filmmaker Carl Denham (Black), to shoot a film on the aptly named Skull Island. Denham books a steam boat, captained by Engelhorn (Kretschmann), to the South Pacific island, in the hope of shooting out a travelogue/adventure film. Also aboard is Jack Driscoll (Brody), the screenwriter for Denham’s latest epic, and hunky actor Bruce Baxter (Chandler), intended to play Ann’s on-screen love interest.
Once we’re in the jungles of Skull Island, Jackson’s film turns more mysterious and far more adventurous than the original. The computer generated images really kick in on the island, with fossilised remains of an ancient civilisation, deformed vegetation and skulls everywhere, all crawling with predatory life forms.
The natives capture Ann to use as a sacrifice to the island’s number one Alpha male – Kong (he doesn’t put in an appearance until the 70 minute mark, but lives up to his billing). The big ape is intrigued by his blond-haired captive and the two bond. To him, she represents a respite from brutality and killing, while she recognises in him the years of loneliness and ferocity that have lead to his “anger issues”. Instead of eating her, he adopts her as a sort of pet and Ann slowly finds that she has some kind of affection for Kong too. Meanwhile, Jack, Carl and a group of others from the ship come ashore to rescue her and capture him.
Events conspire to bring Kong back to New York, where he’s put on stage as a kind of respectable freak show for the upper crust to see. He escapes, finds Ann, climbs the Empire State building … and the rest is history.
The star of the movie, as one might expect from the title, is the giant primate. Kong has gone from being an 18-inch high clay puppet to a beautifully rendered computer generated creature.
At its core, King Kong is not an action-adventure but a love story.