Upon finding the perfect leading lady for his latest flick, producer Carl Denham (Black) takes a crew to the mysterious uncharted Skull Island — home to a violent tribe, dinosaurs, giant creepy crawlies and a great big monkey ... whose name escapes me. Peter Jackson once again delivers the kinda stuff that made the Lord Of The Rings trilogy the landmark trilogy it was by bringing everyone’s favourite skyscraper scaling simian back to the big screen. The story is a classic one — a film crew discovers a giant gorilla on a remote island only for the furry fella to snatch the crew’s leading lady, Ann Darrow (Watts), causing the producer to see dollar signs as he realises the kind of fame and fortune the ape will bring him.
Everything about Kong looks superb. From the art deco credits that bookmark the tale through the 1930’s New York set design to the sinister and unsettling Skull Island and King Kong himself, Jackson’s attention to detail is impeccable. The CGI is there by the bucket-load, but it’s of such a high standard that nine times out of ten, you won’t even notice it, and when we finally get to see the big ape that all the dosh was blown on (about a third of the way in so you’ll have to be a little patient) you’ll see it was worth every penny. Jackson’s poster boy, Andy Serkis, earns his chips playing both Lumpy the chef and the titular gorilla, his preparation to play the latter has certainly paid off; every grunt, snort, leap, chest beating, T-Rex punch (well maybe not so much that one) is so convincingly ape-like that Gollum incarnate could well be the missing link between man and beast.
Black’s abundant energy throughout is utterly gripping but never OTT while the performances of Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody show off the kind of talent with which they previously caught the Academy’s eye but special mention has to go to the support of Hanks and a post-pubescent Bell who frankly outdo themselves. It’s not all ice cream and sunshine though, as this blockbuster shows a few problems. Clocking in at more than three hours, some may find it a slog — especially as it’s a good 40 odd minutes before we get to see the hairy beast (still, that’s what suspense is all about isn’t it?) and while some may enjoy the build-up to Kong’s unveiling, others may be bored. And kids may get restless in between being terrified as the crew come face to face with the island’s savage bloodthirsty natives and giant man eating bugs. Still, it's all good fun for everyone else especially at the three-quarter mark where Kong plays fisticuffs with three dinosaurs in a brutal 20-minute melee as the hulking silverback shows exactly what he’d do if he came face to face with Godzilla.
However, some aspects seem reminiscent of recent blockbusters — obviously it has that Lord Of The Rings feel to it with the ork-like tribesmen and strange animals, the voyage and romance between Darrow and Brody’s Jack Driscoll comes over all Titanic while after three Jurassic Parks the dinosaur bits just seem a little old hat. However, the unique relationship between Darrow and Kong is touching, although at times it does border on cheese, it’s still captivating to see the lengths to which he will go in order to be near his gal, a course of action leading to his capture at the hand of man looking to cash in on one of nature’s wonders, removing him from his habitat and attempting to confine Skull Island’s king in a New York theatre. Jackson handles the inevitable finale with tenderness — upon conquering the Empire State Building with Ann in hand, he is unable to withstand another bullet from his captors, his eyes glaze and the king slides from his new throne, the moment is one of tragedy and silent respect as the lid is put on Peter Jackson’s greatest project to date. Captivating, witty, warm, scary — the Kong’s got it all. The return of the Kong certainly ain’t for the young-uns but should please most.
EXTRAS *** Introduction To Peter Jackson; Post Production Diaries; Kong's New York 1933; The Natural History Of Skull Island