Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of King Kong is a bit on the long side at 187 minutes. This is an impressive feat given that the 1933 original came in at a 100 minutes. Where Jackson manged to find an additional 87 minutes of story to tell is anyone’s guess but making the most of relatively little source material is not unheard of in Jackson’s oeuvre. Quite how he managed to extract 3 movies worth of material from a relatively short book in creating the Hobbit trilogy still astounds me, particularly given that the final movie of that particular collective is based upon a mere five pages of text.
Obviously, Jackson is no stranger to making an epic or two, but at least The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is a set of really long movies based on a really really long book (or three long books, or six longish books depending on your point of view – I personally read them for the first time in a single volume ‘omnibus’ edition, which was quite hard to hold if I recall) and even if it feels like there’s a bit of unnecessary padding at the denouement of The Return of the King (how many endings does a film really need?) there’s no doubting that it’s a pretty stunning adaptation of Tolkien’s masterpiece. The Hobbit trilogy comes across as significantly more self-indulgent, and Jackson’s King Kong could be accused of the same.
Not that it’s a bad film, because there is a lot to love. Jackson is clearly a fan of the original (which by all accounts is considered a genuine classic of the Silver Screen – not that I’ve ever seen it. I have seen the 1976 version which is not at all considered a classic and rightly so) and his affection comes across in spades. In many ways this is a love letter to cinema itself and if a shade over three hours is probably a tad longer than the film really needs to be, viewers are rewarded with a movie that is the definition of an epic. The visual effects are stunning from the get go – I’ve no idea if the depiction of 1930s New York is in any way accurate (having never been to New York in any capacity, let alone over forty years before I was born) but it’s stylishly brought to life on screen and you’re in no doubt from the opening scenes that no expense has been spared in the making of this movie. Skull Island (when we eventually get there) is also a visual feast and when Kong finally makes an appearance, he is everything you’d hope a modern cinematic monster to be.
The acting from a decent cast is generally commendable, but it is definitely Andy Serkis’ motion-captured performance as the giant gorilla that steals the show, closely followed by myriad CGI creatures that render Skull Island a tourist destination for only the most intrepid and stupidly reckless of individuals.
Score for Christmasishness
I’ve no idea if the original King Kong has any links to the festive period, but there’s no doubt in the 2005 version that by the time the adventurers return to New York (some 2 hours into the movie, but with still an hour of running time left) that we are in the build up to the holidays. In particular, when Kong takes in Central Park, there are multiple Christmas trees in the background.
It doesn’t need to be Christmas, but there is a nostalgic romanticism to this remake that makes the festive backdrop at the denouement seem somewhat appropriate.