Dir: Peter Jackson
Star: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Andy Serkis, Adrien Brody
This is the finest 2-hour film of the year. Pity it runs 187 minutes. If I had to sum up the problems in the rest, it would be thus: “Show me the monkey!” Because the first third, until Kong appears, is terrible: turgid storytelling and character development that numb the brain, as they sail to Skull Island in what seems like real time. The highlight is seeing a crate casually labelled “Sumatran Rat Monkey”, a delightful nod by Jackson to his earlier Brain Dead. Otherwise, how good is any film where the star skips the first hour?
But when Kong appears, the film kicks off, and when it’s good, it’s really good. While the effects are not as pixel-perfect as I’d hope, their usage is spectacularly well-executed: Jackson has learned from his LotR experience exactly how to use them to create whatever emotion is required, and does so here with masterly skill. The sequence where Kong takes on three T-Rex to save his dame, is as brilliant a piece of action film-making as you’ll see – yet is memorable as much for the emotional coda as the battle itself. And Jackson then follows that up, with a sequence in a gorge, where the rest of the humans face the ickiest set of creatures you’ll ever see. After Kong’s capture, boom, it’s opening night for The Kong Show back in New York – you only wish the journey out had been removed too – and you know exactly where this will end: atop the Empire State Building.
Serkis is excellent as the performance behind the simian. The rest of the actors are mostly solid: surprisingly so in Black’s case, who is better at capturing the obsessive nature of director Carl Denham than I expected. Watts does what she can as Ann Darrow, given she must have been alone when acting half her scenes; however, Brody’s wussy scriptwriter is utterly pointless and should have been hacked from the film at an early stage. You will need to suspend your disbelief an awful lot towards the end [the ice skating…Ann running through New York in the depths of winter wearing only a flimsy negligee and without the slightest shiver…a 25-foot ape falling from 1250 feet up, and not smashing like a ripe watermelon] but it’s certainly worth the effort.