Thursday, December 15, 2005


Even though I didn’t get back ‘til 2:30 last night, I could barely sleep. It took me nearly an hour to even convince myself to close my eyes. It was a reaction I understood after I saw “The Shining” earlier this year, but with this it was different...this time, I just couldn’t believe what I had just seen.

The sheer...well, it’s gonna sound cheesy, but this is Peter Jackson’s baby all the way. And the sheer passion that went into every step of this project shows through right from the start. As eye-popping as Skull Island is, the recreation of 1933 New York is stunning. The scenes at sea got me giddy, and by the time they got into the fog surrounding Skull Island, I couldn’t dream of looking away from the screen. Everything that followed was the most constant jaw-dropping excitement and beautiful imagery I’ve seen in a single film. Ever.

For those of you who were on the same wavelength with me for last year’s SKY CAPTAIN, imagine that same reaction multiplied and taken to the next highest power you can think of. If that makes sense. It’s three hours of tension, heartache, joy, action, spectacle, romance, and everything else movies were made for. This is a movie for people who love the pictures.

And yes. It’s three hours long. Yes, it’s far longer than necessary. And you bet I felt the length by the end of it. But when you’re having that much fun and are that involved in it, you really stop caring and enjoy the ride.

Kong himself is the greatest special effect in the history of cinema. Not only does he look like a real 25-foot gorilla, and not only does he move like hell, but thanks to Andy Serkis’ performance (WETA, the effects guys, used the same method they developed for Gollum in LORD OF THE RINGS), the big guy’s got soul. Not only did Serkis do all the movements (which, when you watch Kong with that in mind, is incredible), but he also did all the vocal work, and while Kong doesn’t say a single word, the differences in his grunts and growls and yawns mean everything.

It is an effects-driven movie, and WETA handles it beautifully. With the exception of maybe STAR WARS, I’ve never felt as transported as I did on Skull Island. I don’t want to ruin any of it for those of you who have no idea what to expect (between the original, the trailers, and reading some reviews, I knew some of what to expect and was still blown away), but action/adventure films, most of the time the audience knows the film’s main characters will survive. In the case of KONG, which has probably the most famous ending of any movie in history, you know some people have to live. But the tension is right there, the entire time.

There isn’t a wasted moment on Skull Island. Just when you think the crew or Ann might have caught a break, there’s something right around the corner. Or over the hill. Or right next to them, above them, below them...the entire island lives and breathes these creatures, each one distinctly designed.

The cast is top-notch. It is VERY classical Hollywood sort of acting, which to some translates as cheesy. It ain’t always realistic, in fact it often isn’t, but it’s still exciting to watch and plenty engaging. Me, I love that stuff, so I was in.

Naomi Watts especially as Ann Darrow, striking the right balance of damsel in distress (and there’s plenty of distress) and the knowing recipient of Kong’s compassion. She radiates in every moment, remaining totally sincere. And she’s got one heck of a scream on her. Wow. Adrian Brody, as Jack Driscoll, has a hard role to play. He has to be the third wheel, the guy we know Ann must ultimately end up with, but also doesn’t get the same screen time as Kong to develop the relationship in. Meanwhile, he has to be a playwright forced into the role of the action hero. But Brody nails it. He completely makes it work, not as an action hero but as a man driven to extreme circumstances.

And then there’s Jack Black. I remember reading that Jackson had cast Black. First reaction, I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to carry any sort of drama. Then, after seeing the ’33 original, I was afraid Peter Jackson would just demote Carl Denham, a great character, to comic relief. Thankfully, neither happened, and what comes as a result is probably Jack Black’s finest work to date, and a fantastic character. He emerges more and more as a villain as the movie rolls on, and actually this is the character that sees the most change from the original, but Jack keeps it grounded with just the right bit of manic in his eye at all times.

The supporting cast, with the exception of the earlier-noted individual, is superb. They’re developed long enough that they don’t waste too much time, but enough so that you give a damn when the shit hits the fan. Personal favorite was Captain Englehorn, a relatively boring character in the original, but here he comes off like the king of the sea. And the land for that matter. Classic action hero.

I cannot implore you enough to go see this on the most massive screen possible. Portland people, your best options are theaters 8 or 9 at the EAST SIDE Century, theater 1 at Lloyd Center, or theater 1 (I BELIEVE it’s theater 1) at Tigard. For Lloyd and Tigard though, just ask for the Giant Screen show times. I can’t wait to see it on that. And see it at a busy time, preferably this weekend, because the crowd reactions make the movie. It’s one to cheer, scream (I heard a lotta shrieks), and laugh to.

I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s one of those things where I did think I’d fall in love with it, but when it happens you never think you’d fall so deeply. This film deserves all the money and awards thrown its way. Especially Peter Jackson. Right now he’s got a nomination for Best Director at the Golden Globes, and I can only pray the Oscars’ll show him the same love he got two years ago.

P.S. Great side story. The night Jackson came back to the hotel from the Oscars after RETURN OF THE KING won everything, he had a production meeting for KING KONG. That very night. Some people partied…he was making another movie. That’s awesome.


Ben said...

I don't know Scott, I might see Casanova instead. You definitely weren't convincing enough.

post script
The idea of Peter Jackson partying is so ridiculous I am glad he didn't attempt it.

Dave said...

wow, and here I had all but written it off. now I'm really interested in seeing it. thanks for the review Scott!

Misha said...

i liked the review! i cant wait to see it in pdx. anyone want to come?
and i want to see narnia...don't judge me

Scott said...

I'm definitely on for some Kong in PDX (let's refer to it as that from now on...even in conversation), and I REALLY wanna see Narnia, so no judgment here.

Cory said...

Narnia is a good movie. :-) It kinda seems like some parts made it obvious that the target audience was kids, but it's hard not to like a movie with such a good story.

Nancy said...

Narnia, seems kind of redundant..I mean it looks good, but Harry Potter kind of sucked all that magic out of me and the battle scenes remind me of LOTR. I'll be watching King Kong later tonight. I can't wait.

Anonymous said...

where do u people get the money to do all of this?

Misha said...

NANCY!! how could you? I will never ever EVER say that Harry Potter is a better story than Narnia. Narnia is a classic, and HP doesn't come close. Narnia is not redundant. It is a wonderful story. I'm dissapointed in you.

imac said...

Jack Black completely exceeded any expectation that I had of him in a dramatic role. The only problem was that every time I saw him on screen I heard Tenacious D songs in my head.

Cynda said...

eh not really interested in Kong. Really liked Narnia. Really want to see Casanova and finally Harry Potter will always rule over Narnia in my book.

Nancy said...

Misha, I didn't mean that the books are redundant, just the movies..I was trying to compare the movie versions of the books, not the books themselves.

About Kong. This movie proves that boys are stupid. That is all.

Ken said...

Oh man. Oh man. Best movie pretty much ever. Oh man.

Ken said...

Nancy I don't know if you actually watched the movie or not, but it's as much for girls as for guys.

Katie said...

As much as I hate to, gotta agree with Ken here: definitely loved Kong, didn't see it as a guy's movie, just one for people who love movies. Which I definitely do. It was well-acted (I respected both Naomi Watts and Jack Black more coming out of that movie), and visually stunning (I could not look away from Kong the entire movie, just because watching him move was so fascinating I didn't want to miss anything), and yes, it was an emotional rollercoaster the entire 3 hours, but that was kinda the point, so I went with it.
Great to have that kind of movie watching experience since it's the first one I've seen in a theater since I left for school in August.
That's a helluva long time.
I know.

As always, Scott, I trust your reviews more than anyone elses, so keep writing them.