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Vaudeville actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) finds herself out of a job in Depression-era New York, but her luck changes when entrepreneur, adventurer and filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) offers her a movie role. A fan of its screenplay writer, Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), she accepts. Little does she know when she boards the SS Venture that Denham has a secret agenda: to film the undiscovered, mist-shrouded Skull Island, home to wild natives, exotic beasts and a giant ape who takes a shine to his star, Ann. Denham's crew risk all in deadly confrontations with the wild beats, but he perseveres as he sees a fortune to be made with the ape as a novelty exhibit - King Kong - back in New York, but is blind to the power of the new feelings that Ann has stirred in the beast.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Once upon a time many movies ago, there was a film in which a small group of filmmakers found an unchartered island, home to exotic, dangerous creatures, including a giant ape ... Fairy tale and parable, simple escapism and multilayered tragedy, King Kong is all things to all men (and apes). To Peter Jackson, King Kong is an example of pure cinema, both from the point of view of the maker and the consumer. A big story with a big surface attraction as well as plenty of layers, the adventure and the thrills are as important as any of the underlying issues that are available for discussion.

But let's stick to the movie, a virile adventure that in its resurrection dwarfs Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. It's no surprise that Jackson has retained the original 1933 setting, a time of depression and desperation in America. That mind set and those times are crucial to the film's psychological environment.

So meticulously and cleverly crafted that the results overwrite the methods, Jackson succeeds in making Kong as close to emotionally responsive as possible, yet without anthropomorphizing him. We surrender to the magic of cinema, not too bothered how the technicians worked their magic. And so it should be.

Andy Serkis provides the internal performance for King Kong, and it's well to remember that. At the very heart of the film, as it were, is a love story of sorts, which drives the emotional connection to the audience, an unlikely one between a beast and a beauty whose sheer presence tames the ape's heart. This basic element is the burning flame at the centre of the film.

Jackson's version of King Kong is, for the most part, a sensational reprise of the greatest virtues of old Hollywood with the greatest tools of modern filmmaking and a deeply human sensibility. Even where he takes poetic licence in a few scenes, he is referring to the filmmaking school that values imagery above crass reality. But he also stages some of the giant spectacles with the confidence of a master, those terrible, deadly fights with dinosaurs and other exotic beasts, making them seem all too real. There is real danger, real fear, real amazement value.

The human characters are also tested, though not as much as Kong, who is made to pay the ultimate price for his few moments of empathy with another creature. Naomi Watts is terrific as Ann, neatly balancing her showbiz toughness with natural panic, and the supporting cast all deliver genuine characterizations. A giant achievement, Kong is indeed a King of the cinematic jungle.

Available on DVD as a single disc, or as a 2-disc Special Edition with Peter Jackson's introduction, Production Diaries containing nearly three hours exclusive footage, on the set and more.

Published April 20, 2006

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(NZ/US, 2005)

CAST: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis

PRODUCER: Jan Blenkin, Carolyne Cunnigham, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

SCRIPT: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens (story by Merian C. Cooper & Edgar Wallace)


EDITOR: Jamie Selkirk

MUSIC: James Newton Howard


RUNNING TIME: 185 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 14, 2005


SPECIAL FEATURES: Available as single disc and 2-disc special edition.[BREAK]2 disc S.E: Special Introduction by Peter Jackson; Post Production Diaries with nearly three hours of exclusive behind the scenes footage; Skull Island: A Natural History - Travel to treacherous Skull Island with Peter Jackson and his crew featurette; Kong's New York, 1933 - 1930s.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video

DVD RELEASE: April 12, 2006

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