Today! Because there’s only one creature capable of leaving a footprint that size –
King Kong (2005)
Directed by Peter Jackson (x2)
Starring Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody (x2), Jack Black (x4), Andy Serkis (x2), Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler (x3), Evan Parke, Lobo Chan, John Sumner, Craig Hall, Geraldine Brophy
I’m rarely going to criticize a film for being long. I might say it goes on a bit, or it has some slow parts, or it’s a tad long, but for the most part, I’m not easily bored. I worked at calendar stores in August and September during college – I know from boring. All that being said, I fully agree that Peter Jackson’s King Kong is obscenely too long. I feel like Jackson came down with a case of the J.K. Rowlings in 2005 – after a period of wild success, no one was willing to step up and reign them in, and say that perhaps these stories didn’t need to be 800 pages/three-plus hours long. And so, we have to wait forever for Kong to actually appear in this movie. It’s not like I don’t enjoy all the CGI bugs and whatnot, but somewhere along the way, a little nudge from the studio or somebody to be like “Is this really necessary?” would’ve gone a long way to alleviating our collective sore ass.
All that being said – and hell, it always needs to be mentioned with this film – King Kong is a terrific movie. I was never a huge fan of the 1933 original – I recognize it for the inventive, groundbreaking effects marvel it is, but come on, it’s a bit creaky by today’s standards – and saw the cheesy 1976 version a bunch as a kid, but never had a lingering affinity. So Kong was much like Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, and the rest of the big, silly, rubber suit monsters of weekend afternoon television. It wasn’t serious entertainment. It was cheap nonsense with cardboard sets.
But then couple the original Skull Island/NYC tale with Peter Jackson and all the budget in the world, and holy wow. Once Kong finally does come into the picture, it’s some pretty electric stuff. Andy Serkis does his typical amazing motion capture performance as Kong – this also functioned as a great ape primer for Serkis leading to his true masterwork, in the Planet of the Apes films – but it cannot be overstated how committed and authentic Naomi Watts is as Ann Darrow. While Fay Wray was great and all, and Jessica Lange was sort of tongue-in-cheek present, Watts is totally on board. Great in the early scenes, setting up her struggling actress character, forging a relationship with Brody’s writer Jack, and then the rollercoaster of playing opposite the CGI monster – funny, touching, heart wrenching. It’s an incredibly difficult role, and the key to the success of the movie in general. Twice nominated (but not for this), if Watts doesn’t win an Oscar in the next ten years, I’ll be amazed, and frankly, kinda outraged. Get ready!
The marvelous technical achievements of this film were roundly rewarded, taking home Visual Effects, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing Oscars, while Jackson nabbed a Best Director nomination from the Globes for this, his second film to the make the list, following The Hobbit back at #362. 22nd Two-Timer Director! But Best Giant Ape Ice Skating Routine? Snubbed!
Serkis also joins the Two-Timers in the acting wing after his work as Gollum in The Hobbit, while Brody makes the cut along with his performance in #319 The Darjeeling Limited, but we do snag a new Three-Timer with Kyle Chandler (#274 Argo and#388 The Wolf of Wall Street) and our ninth Four-Timer with Jack Black (#352 Be Kind Rewind, #372 Walk Hard, and #310 Mars Attacks!). Spotlight!
(Also, for the follow-up to this post’s qualified title, see #133, coming March 2nd, 2020!)