out of Five
Running time: 190
With a superb cast, terrific special effects and stunning action sequences, this is one of the best films of the year - thrilling, awe-inspiring and genuinely moving.
King Kong is that rarest of beasts – a blockbuster that’s actually worthy of the hype. This is due in no small part to director Peter Jackson, who had wanted to remake the classic 1933 monster movie ever since he was 14 years old.
Backed by terrific work from WETA, the effects company behind Jackson’s Lord of the Rings
trilogy, Jackson delivers in every conceivable way. This is a blockbusting monster movie, to be sure, but it’s a monster movie with a heart.
The film is set in 1933, the year of the original film. Jack Black stars as desperate film-maker Carl Denham, who casts penniless actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), kidnaps writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and takes an entire film crew on a cruise in search of the mysterious, uncharted Skull Island.
Once there, the remaining members of an ancient civilisation capture Ann and sacrifice her to a giant gorilla named Kong. Driscoll and the crew members stage a rescue, while Denham plans to capture the beast and make a fortune by exhibiting Kong in New York. Meanwhile, Kong falls in love with Ann and protects her from the dangerous inhabitants of Skull Island.
The performances are superb. Watts makes Ann’s relationship with Kong both believable and heart-breaking. It’s fascinating to compare her with Fay Wray in 1933, who screamed her way through the entire film. Black reins in his comedic impulses and delivers an engaging performance, part Orson Welles, part Merian Cooper (the director of the 1933 film) and part Jackson himself.
The effects are nothing short of astonishing. Kong himself is a jaw-droppingly amazing creation, but Jackson also has a lot of fun recreating the famously cut spider pit sequence, conjuring up enough CGI creepy-crawlies to give you nightmares for weeks. In addition, the centrepiece T-Rex fight sees Kong square up against not one but three T-Rexes in an incredibly exciting sequence that lasts over ten minutes.
To be fair, there are a couple of moments where dodgy CGI rears its ugly head, specifically in some of the scenes with the boat and some of Kong’s early movements, but the film is so colossally entertaining that you really don’t care.
In short, King Kong is one of the best films of the year and a blockbuster truly worthy of the name. Also, don’t be surprised if Kong ends up nabbing an Oscar or two into the bargain come February. In a word, unmissable.