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Twenty-nine years later, newest 'Kong' remake keeps the intrigue alive
By Mark Moorehead

December 17, 2005

In life, change is constant and relentless. Perhaps thatís why we take comfort in the little things that remain the same: King Kong is back on the big screen after a 29-year hiatus; the Empire State Building remains the tallest building in New York City; and love conquers all, no matter how diminutive your stature.

Five-time Academy Award winner Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings Series) re-creates the RKO Pictures 1933 classic story melding 21st century film technology and two passionate stars (Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody). Filmed in the jungles of New Zealand and on location in New York City, Jacksonís epic will dazzle you with non-stop action, special effects and a soundtrack thatís a little on the loud side

Visually, King Kong looks great. His eyes appear real and his facial expressions are light-years ahead of the 1933 original. However, the computer generated image-rendered dinosaurs look a bit too fake. After being spoiled with the life-like dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park film series, and given King Kongís budget of $200 million, viewers expect the same level of special effects for T-Rex on Skull Island.

Overall, however, the quality of the cinematography transcends the flawed appearance of a few dinosaurs. The jungles of Skull Island are lush, moist, richly textured scenes populated by flawlessly depicted giant insects that descend on man and beast with the abandon of creatures at the top of the food chain. The soft, drab brown colors of the 1930ís Depression-era New York City, complete with steel workers dangling high above the city trying to earn a buck juxtaposed with the long snaking soup lines below, is visually provocative and provides the backdrop for the second half of the story.

For those with an incomplete memory of the story or anyone curious about why anyone would deliberately choose to wander around the nastiest habitat on earth, Iíve provided this thumbnail sketch: Out-of-work vaudevillian actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is offered a job starring in a film to be shot by Carl Denham (Jack Black) on the island. They crash into an island that was thought to be deserted, only to discover itís not.

Natives quickly abduct Darrow as a sacrifice for King Kong. Kong soon realizes itís no sacrifice at all, simply a 120-pound blonde actress who knows how to make the big guy smile with a song and dance routine and appreciates a good sunset.

Kong sees himself as Romeo in Romero and Juliet and Darrow sees herself as the good doctor in Gorillas in the Mist. Fortunately, or unfortunately, family interference (the film crew and the outside world) conspires to separate this tortured relationship.

Playwright Jack Driscol (Adrien Brody) completes the love triangle, generating jealously in Kong. Driscol is so madly in love with Darrow that he would have joined an animal rights organization to impress her if one had existed back then. In turn Kong would vanquish a dozen dinosaurs to protect his sweetheart from the seamier side of outdoor living.

Predictably, making an easy buck takes precedence over leaving well enough alone and Kong winds up in New York City at the mercy of urbanites.

Watts and Brody convey a range of emotions without speaking a word, complimenting the non-speaking star of the film. Watts has not displayed such a talent for generating a moving response from an audience since Mulholland Drive, and Brodyís sentimental performance is reminiscent of his role in The Piano.

The only character out of sync with the tone of this story is Blackís. Known better for his comedic roles, Blackís dead-pan delivery of the final words in the film ďbeauty killed the beast,Ē after Kongís dramatic fall from the Empire State Building, come across as a sarcastic comic retort instead of a searing epitaph for the broken-hearted king of the jungle.

In keeping with Blackís penchant for comedy it would have been more appropriate had he said, ďLove hurts.Ē


Mark's Movie Meter

General Audiences: A-

You know the story: Classic love triangle, big athletic type versus pencil-pushing playwright and the blonde object of their affections. Someone has to take the fall. No sex or language (3 hours)

Family Audiences: B+
To determine whether you think the violence in this movie is safe for your child think Jurassic Park meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Rated PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned, some materials may be inappropriate for children under 13) for frightening violence and disturbing images (3 hours)























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