Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies, has always wanted to make a King Kong movie right after he released Frighteners. He wanted the movie to be released by 1998, but by that time Universal noticed that there were already two other monster films being released that same year, Mighty Joe Young and GODZILLA. It was held off until Jackson finished directing all three Lord of the Rings movies. By early 2003, Universal approached Jackson again unsure if he was still interested in making KING KONG. Luckily for them, he was still interested and was in post-production of LotR: The Return of the King. This would've went on to being the most expensive movie ever made if it wasn't for Spiderman 3, which came out two years later. When I went to see this movie in theaters, I was awe struck. The visuals, the story, and the music had me glued to the screen without even noticing that this was 3 hours long. I never seen the original at the time, but I was already claiming this to be the best Kong movie. Does it still hold up twelve years later?
Peter Jackson really took the time to push the story to other territories while keeping it faithful to the original. There were so many moments that really made it feel like you could understand them on an emotional level. For instance, the movie takes place in 1933, during the great depression. It starts off showing parts of New York City where all the homeless live and then you see theaters and stores being closed down. The pressure of trying to make a living back then is just like what we are in today. You really get to know the main characters of the movie before and during the voyage to Skull Island on a personal level. It stays faithful to the original story, but it is like they gave the original a squeaky clean polish to make it feel new again.
There were a lot of references that pay homage to the original as well such as the bug pit scene was a reference to a deleted scene in the original movie. There was a call back to Merian C. Cooper and Fay Wray. In that scene where Jack Black was discussing about who to play a specific part, he suggested Fay, but his assistant, Preston, brought up that Fay is already doing a picture with RKO, which is where Jack Black muttered, "Cooper, huh?" At the end of the credits, they even give credit to "the original crew that voyaged to Skull Island" and they name all the actors from the original. It is the small things in the story that I appreciate most.
Kong was played by Andy Serkis and was all done with motion capture and CGI. He had to play the role of Kong twice, once in a makeshift gorilla outfit so Naomi Watts has something to react to, and then the second time in a motion capture suit. Serkis did a really great job in giving Kong a lively personality from just observing how wild gorillas move and interact. He even made friends with a female gorilla at London's zoo.
The only problem I have with this movie is that it may be too cinematic to watch at home. When I saw it in theaters, it was like going on an adventure rather than watching another monster flick. At home, I just don't get that same feeling anymore. All of those moments that I loved like the fight with the T-Rexes and the finale on top of the Empire State Building were the biggest highlights of the movie. They are still pretty epic, but watching those moments on a wide screen TV is just not the same for me.
If I have to choose between this version, the1976 version, and the original, I would choose this movie with the original being in second. As much as everyone loves the original, KING KONG (2005) really tops it. It is three hours long, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time not realizing how fast time has gone. KING KONG (2005) stays faithful to the original, but refurbished to where it feels new. It still is one of the most enjoyable Kong movies I ever watched. I highly recommend watching this movie whether you are a fan of the original or first time watching any Kong movies.
Next weekend is the big weekend as Kong-athon draws closer to the end. Some time next Friday or Saturday, I will be reviewing KONG: SKULL ISLAND and then I will close my Kong-athon the following week. Will KONG: SKULL ISLAND take the top spot or will KING KONG (2005) reign supreme on my number 1 spot? Stay tuned!