King Kong 2005
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black

Directed by: Peter Jackson
Review by Wayne C. Rogers

Let me state right off the bat that I had mixed feeling about the 2005 version of King Kong when I first saw it at the movie theater. There were things I liked about it and things I didn’t. I won’t say I hated the film; nor, would I say I loved it.

Well, for some strange reason I bought a copy of the three-disc set of the film with the extended edition on it. Of course, the price was only $2.99, plus $2.99 for shipping and handling. I figured six bucks was a great price to pay for seeing the extended version. Maybe I’d enjoy the film more this time around. The set also included several hours of extras which really showed you the hard work everyone put into the making of this exceptional movie.

Like director, Peter Jackson, I’m a big fan of the 1933 version of the original King Kong movie. I also liked the 1976 version, but that may have been because Jessica Lange was in it. After The Lord of the Rings, I was certainly eager to see what Mr. Jackson would do with the big fellow. I think because of the three Rings movies, everyone was expecting something that would blow them right out of their seats.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen … at least not at first.

It took a few years and a lot of DVD sales for this 200-million-dollar epic to break the 700-million-dollar mark. In other words, it made its money back, plus a sizable profit.

Well, this time around, however, I found myself not only enjoying the movie for pure entertainment, but also its artistic merits like the performances of the actors, the special effects used to create 1933 New York City and Skull Island sequences, the soundtrack music, and the giant gorilla, Mr. King “Badass” Kong.

It’s possible I liked this film better the second time because six years had passed since last seeing it, plus I wasn’t expecting anything from the movie. If anything, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it and was surprised when I got right into the film and felt like I was with the actors on their journey to Skull Island and in their attempt to capture the big lug.

What I now think of King Kong doesn’t benefit Peter Jackson one iota. I doubt he even cares. Anyway, he’s now busy, working on The Hobbits. I hope my review might encourage some readers to view the 2005 version of King Kong. Or, if they’ve already seen the movie and didn’t like it, to give the film another chance, especially the extended edition, which is thirteen minutes longer. It includes actions sequences when the sailors are crossing the swamp as they go after Ann Darrow and the attack upon them at the bottom of the gorge. When I watched the film in 2005, I remembered thinking that the swamp scene was cut really short compared to the 1933 version of the movie.

It just wasn’t as exciting.

Well, now it is.

As most horror and movie fans know the movie’s about producer/director Carl Denham attempt to get his film finished in 1933. All he needs is financial backing, a leading lady, and then to make the voyage to Skull Island where something mysterious lives.

Denham (played by Jack Black) finds his leading lady in vaudeville entertainer, Ann Darrow (played by the lovely Naomi Watts). Once that is done and the writer of the screenplay, Jack Driscoll (played by Adrien Brody), is trapped on the tramp steamer, Denham orders the ship’s captain to set sail. They make the long voyage to Skull Island, which is enacted perfectly within the film with great music by James Newton Howard in the background. When the ship’s crew and the movie cast reach the island, they encounter a tribe of the most hideous looking cannibals I’ve ever seen in a film. These are hungry people whose eyes light up when they see fresh food in front of them, but they really get excited about the beautiful Ann Darrow and the possibility of sacrificing her to the great Kong.

There’s nothing like a human sacrifice to get the hormones roaring!

After a big shootout in the village, the members of the steamer make it back to their ship after having lost several men. The natives, however, want Ann. One of them sneaks onto the ship at night and kidnaps her. The crew and Ann’s love interest, Jack Driscoll, go after Ann. Unfortunately, they reach the village too late to save her from the clutches of the giant gorilla. As Kong disappears into the wild jungle with Ann in his grasp, part of the crew decides to go after her in a desperate attempt to save her life, or even worse, from Kong’s love.

As Ann and Kong quickly develop a relationship with each other on the journey to the ape’s lair, a dozen men start making their way through the dangerous, deadly environment that will claim the lives of most of them before Ann is finally saved by Jack Driscoll. Then, it’s a mad dash back through the jungle with Kong dead on their heels. He’s one angry ape at losing the love of a lifetime. Allow me to note that King Kong is no fool. The gorilla swiftly recognizes Jack as a fellow competitor for Ann’s affection and doesn’t like it one bit.

Neither would I.

Once Kong reaches the village only minutes behind the two lovebirds, Carl Denham gases the ape with dozens of bottles of chloroform. Kong is then made a captive and taken back to New York City so Denham can make a fortune with the new Eighth Wonder of the World – the mighty King Kong.

Viewing the movie the second time, I expected everything to be CGI effects and thereby to hopefully enjoy the quality of them more. I now feel that an excellent job was done on the creation of King Kong, especially with regards to the hard work of Andy Serkis, who played Golem in Lord of the Rings. Serkis studied the movements and actions of wild gorillas in Africa for weeks and was able to recreate them on stage in New Zealand for Peter Jackson. Also, Andy Serkis had an actual role in the movie as Lumpy, the sailor with the black eye patch on his face. I kept looking at Lumpy and saying to myself, “I know that face from somewhere.

The creation of the cannibal’s village, the vast jungle, the dinosaurs and other creatures that do battle with the sailors were expertly done in my opinion. I soon forgot I was watching CGI effects and got caught up in the story-telling of the movie and in the plight of the characters. I didn’t even realize it until about two hours into the film.

Though I initially didn’t like Jack Black in the role of Carl Denham the first time, I found myself getting caught up in his enthusiasm for making his movie at whatever the cost. I loved his famous line, “I’m a producer. You can trust me.” I know that had to cause a lot of laughter in the theaters around Los Angeles when the movie first came out.

I also didn’t realize that Colin Hanks played Carl Denham’s assistant, Preston. I’ve been a fan of Colin’s since Band of Brothers and Orange County came out. He was also just in the seventh season of Dexter. He’s becoming a fine actor like his dad.

Naomi Watts plays Ann Darrow in the film, and I was simply amazed by her performance, considering how often she was actually acting in front of a green screen. She carried off the role perfectly and gave the late Fay Wray a run for the money as the lady in distress who’s loved by a giant, furry hunk.

Adrien Brody also gets high marks for his performance as Jack Driscoll, a playwright who agrees to do write a movie screen for the easy money and then finds himself in love with the lead lady and having to compete for attention with a giant gorilla. That can’t be easy for any screenwriter. Brody managed to pull it off with unbelievable success.

Last, but not least, I want to mention Thomas Kretschmann who played Captain Englehorn. For the first half of the movie, I thought he was really Liam Neeson. He captured the role of a rugged tramp steamer captain as if he’d been playing it for years. Evan Parke as Hayes, the captain’s second in command was also ideal. All of these wonderful performances by the secondary cast added up to a great movie.

With the fantastic acting, the magnificent special effects, and the fabulous directing, I have to finally add the contributions of James Newton Howard and his musical score. A movie of this caliber would be nothing without the right type of music playing in the background. The music sets the mood for things to come and adds to the action and love sequences. The music is great to listen to by itself.

The Extended Edition of King Kong is well over three hours in length. Six hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes are on the three discs in this set. They go into great detail discussing all aspects in the making of the movie. This is absolutely fascinating to those who love movies and how they’re made.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone who loves horror and action films. I’m glad I gave this movie a second shot. It deserved it and much, much more. I hope you, too, will give it another chance if you didn’t enjoy it at the theaters in 2005. I already want to watch it again.

Editor’s Note: Wayne C. Rogers is the author of the horror novellas – The Encounter, The Tunnels, and The Cat From Hell. These can be purchased as Kindle e-books on Amazon for ninety-nine cents each.

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