(This entry is part of “Monster May,” a look at classic and iconic monster movies all leading up to the United States premiere of Godzilla on May 16. For more on what’s going on this month, check out our original post here.)
Average Size: Height, 25 ft; Weight, 20-60 tons.
Claim to fame:
First off let me say: I realize this was supposed to be posted the 15th. And then I opened up the video file and realizes that wasn’t going to happen because contrary to popular belief, I do have a life. But before we start, allow me to tell you a story about how this movie got a director:
Once upon a time, Universal Pictures was like “Well, we have this 100 minute original and it’s really good and part of history and deemed ‘culturally, historically and aesthetically significant’ by the Library of Congress, but we wanna top it. Where do we find an Oscar-winning big name director that can take a really simple story and add, oh I don’t know, an hour more to the run time?” Of course only one name came up, which made this movie even more significant because it’s his only film that can’t be used as a travel ad for New Zealand: Peter Jackson.
Oh yes. This movie is 3 hours long. 3 hours. And he doesn’t have the appendices of the original King Kong to blame it on either.
But actually, there’s very little that’s changed form the original film in this adaptation. Looking to film his next big movie, struggling director Carl Denham (Jack Black) decides to take a voyage and film his next flick on the undiscovered Skull Island. Before he goes he manages to convince Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) to join as a lead beside actor Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler, yes, the same one that starred as the dad in Super 8), as well as screenwriter friend Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). They head off and eventually crash on the famous Skull Island, where they meet some not-so-friendly natives that kill off a few guys before being driven away by the ship’s crew.
MEANWHILE, the native are all “ohh, she’s blonde!” and tie her to this weird trap thingy and offer her to the legendary King Kong. However, little do they know he totally has a thing for blondes, and instead of eating her or whatever they thought he was gunna do, he grabs her and takes her back to his lair. Because that’s how you win a woman. Show them your lair. Women love lairs.
In between there are a lot of giant monsters and people dying and oh yea, good ol’ Peter Jackson takes a simple love story between Ann and Jack that wasn’t essential to the plot or even really prominent and totally emphasizes it so that it becomes a major thing in the movie, and not just like a natural progression.
But King Kong battles some dinosaurs, the group trying to save Ann get picked off one-by-one, until finally Jack shows up and saves Ann, only to lead King Kong into a trap where Carl throws an entire bottle of chloroform on him to put him into a nice giant-monkey dream. Probably about equally giant bananas or something.
Carl, being the genius he is, bring King Kong back to 1930’s New York (did we mention it’s a period piece?), where true to form, King Kong breaks loose. Because whoever thought you could tie down King Kong?
Well King Kong finds his blushing blonde bride, and there are some touching scenes of snow and ice, and then the US Military shows up (they are literally always the bad guys!) and well… Empire State building, planes flying around, and:
Now let’s get something straight: it’s an entertaining movie. However, let’s talk some key points.
Jack Black is, well, Jack Black. I’m pretty sure his opening lines where he’s trying to convince the producers to fund his film were the same lines he used to convince Nickolodeon to do Nacho Libre. As Carl in the movie, he famously says “I’m good at crapping the crappers.”
However, it’s nice to see Andy Serkis as the chef Lumpy, considering his “usual” movie costume.
However, let’s admit it. Andy Serkis is the Ringo to Peter Jackson’s the Beatles. Jackson needs him, but really doesn’t give Serkis much to do outside of, well, King Kong. He kinda just looks gruff and says menacing things, and that’s pretty much it.
In addition, King Kong was too big a reveal to jump the shark so soon. Let’s take a look back at some of the great monster movies we’ve seen here at CPP: Call of Cthulhu, Incredible Hulk, Jaws, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Super 8, Cloverfield. You know what’s really good about all those movies? They hold back the monster. The atmosphere and characters take center stage, and that makes the monster even more scary because, well suspense. You show the monster right away, it’s not as… impactful.
That being said, I have to applaud Peter Jackson. The movie is still a good movie, and it brings a heart to King Kong that really hasn’t been shown in, well, ever. Plus, it looked awesome, with Jackson’s work on CGI tracking shots working really well in the Skull Island parts. Plus, having it be a period piece made it fun.
Rating: Paste. Could it have been better? Not really… at least, I can’t think how. But there’s still something… missing, which is why I’m giving it a Paste.
(I’m a day late I know, so we aren’t ending Monster May quite yet. Stay tuned for Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla, a review of the new one, and then a special Honorable Mentions post! [Don’t worry Troy, we haven’t forgotten about The Black Hole![ )