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King Kong (2005)

KING KONG is the extraordinary remake of the legendary tale of beauty and the beast. Heading out to a remote island, a film producer and his crew are anything but prepared for what awaits. When their lead female is taken captive and offered as a sacrifice to a 25 foot gorilla the rest of her brave men will have to brave confrontations with dinosaurs, 3 ft insects, and of course, the King himself. Taking him captive, the gorilla is subject to a mercenary New York where his fate lay in the hands of a fragile 5 foot beauty, Ann Darrow.

The cast includes: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody.

Screenplay written by: Fran Walsh and Philippa Bovens.

Directed by: Peter Jackson.

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Genre: Action, Drama, Adventure
Rated: PG13 for frightening adventure violence and some disturbing images

Tagline: It's not the principle of the thing, it's the money.

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Peter Jackson’s big-budget remake sets the legendary story of the gigantic ape, King Kong, in its original context. It’s the 1930’s and aspiring actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is trying to make the transition from vaudeville to the Broadway in a post-Depression New York. Times are hard, work is scarce, and a good meal is more important than stardom. All the same, Ann Darrow has stars in her eyes, that is, until she returns to work to find there is no more: the theater’s been shut down. Out of work and out of money, Darrow tries to grapple with the recent professional heart break.

Meanwhile a washed up producer, Carl Denham (Jack Black) is attempting to pitch for extra funding for his new film (that being a different film than the one the production company has already budgeted for) which involves a trip to an uncharted island. As fate has it, when the overly ambitious, slightly shady, and entirely amoral filmmaker Carl Denham stumbles across the desperate, and coincidentally lithe blonde beauty he decides to hire her on the spot to be the lead (e.g. the replacement for his size 4 starlet who recently pulled out of production) in his latest film. Though Darrow is hesitant at first, after hearing that reputable playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) is onboard the project, she agrees.

Arriving at the dock Darrow quickly suspects things aren’t quite legitimate with Denham’s production after a quick interlude with Captain Englehorn (Thomas Krestchmann). All the same its full steam ahead as the ship sets sail for an unknown island where dangerous and unimaginable adventures await. On way to the island Darrow is introduced to several cast and crew members including the intriguing screenwriter Jack Driscoll who has been forced into the adventures against his will, and of course, Denham’s leading man, the pompous self-centered Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler). Also accompanying Darrow on her adventures are Hayes (Evan Parke), Englehorn’s right hand man, the wild orphan Jimmy (Jamie Bell), and Denham’s alter ego and assistant, Preston (Collin Hanks).

While en route to the remote island, dubbed by Dricoll as “Skull Island”, Captain Englehorn’s native wild-boy Jimmy lurks in and out of cabins, causing mischief and paying homage to Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”: (In fact the film is as much as homage to Conrad’s legendary novel as it is a remake of a classic with Jackson’s adaptation). Meanwhile Driscoll writes Denham’s script on the fly- falling in love with Darrow as she simultaneously enacts his dialogue. As sparks fly between actor and writer, Englehorn aims his ship southwest to the abyss of the sea in hopes of finding the mysterious island. All is going well until Englehorn discovers Denham has a warrant out for his arrest and threatens to pull out of the project and turn the ship back to New York.

As the ship is pummeled by wave and rock, Englehorn eventually brings the ship to a halt. What awaits Englehorn, Denham, and crew is a monstrous island with species and adventures never imagined. Traveling onshore, Denham, Driscoll, and a few other members of the film crew are confronted with ghastly, macabre images, and everywhere abounds sacrificial relics (the set looks like an oversized voodoo temple full of possessed indigenous people whose eyes are glazed over with red and their skin is as black and thick as tar). As they unleash an unanticipated attack the natives kill several members. In the process of the riot, all looks bleak until Captain Englehorn intervenes and saves their lives.

As they rush back to the boat in hopes of pushing off, the natives use their indigenous methods to take Darrow captive in hopes of offering her as a sacrifice to Kong. Of course the moment she is kidnapped the boat is cleaved free and ready for sail. When Driscoll discovers Ann’s disappearance he implores Englehorn to send men back to the mainland to save her. Loading up on heavy artillery, all aboard set sail to rescue Ann, including Denham who is prepared to shoot some great footage. But what Denham witnesses is beyond his wildest imagination: a 25 foot gorilla has taken Darrow captive into the thick of the island’s deadly jungle.

In their continued search for Darrow what the men encounter next is nothing short of amazing: from living, breathing, eating, and killing dinosaurs, to deadly oversized insects, there is nothing Jackson’s imagination failed to incorporate into this intricate adventure rescue plot. Meanwhile Ann makes good with Kong after an impromptu vaudeville act catches his attention. Seems the gentle giant gets a kick out of watching her fall over. But when Darrow has enough she stands up to the oversized monkey who amazingly concedes. So Darrow is free and off and running in a strange and deadly jungle in hopes that someone or something will find her. In deed something does find her: that something is a T-Rex, 3 T-rex’s at that. So its Kong vs. the trio of T’s in an amazing fight to the death where primate proves triumphant. Touched by his sincerity and his desire to protect her, Darrow decides that maybe staying with Kong is not such a bad idea after all.

Meanwhile Driscoll and crew narrowly escape the most deadly insect invasion you’ve ever witnessed. (And they though the South had big bugs)! From massive centipedes, to crickets, to spiders, to prehistoric insects you wouldn’t know how to name (and don’t forget the unbelievably inventive sucker pods), “Kong” envisions an insect-wrought apocalypse for a few unfortunate members of Denham’s crew. As Denham, Engleton, Baxter, and the surviving members head back to the boat for safety Driscoll marches on in search of his Ann. This of course inspires Denham to persuade Engleton to help him capture the ape. So the ape, defeater of T-Rexes and all other jungle nemeses, has suddenly become the hapless victim of human greed and mercenary motives. So in New York in the mid 1930’s the world is privy to witness “Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World.” With Denham in charge of the project he casts, appropriately enough, Ann Darrow as the leading lady of his little showcase, though at the last minute she bows out.

Of course disaster strikes again as man attempts to tame the king of the jungle. Once more Ann must intervene as she is the only one who can subdue the raging beast. Though Driscoll attempts his best at playing the part of the unlikely hero, all the same, he can’t seem to understand Darrow’s connection to Kong and his interference proves as fatal and pointless as Denham’s mercenary motives. A poignant interlude with woman and beast takes place under Christmas lights on a New York pond. For a brief moment its happiness at last, until once again fate intervenes and a well-defended New York proves too urban a jungle for the humble beast.

“King Kong” is without a doubt, extraordinary. The film goes places and portrays a visionunsurpassed by contemporary filmmakers. This is Peter Jackson’s masterpiece and he should be proud that such an amazing, poignant, and beautiful film is hallmarked as the nexus of his career. “King Kong” is the epitome of beauty, integrity, and is steeped in intricacy and nuance from plot, to character development, to cinematography, to content. The animation involved in developing the nuanced expressions in Kong’s face would be impressive enough. Still, Peter Jackson gives us an endless array of surprises from beginning to end. The film is non-stop action and its multi-layered story effortlessly holds the audience’s attention for the 3 hours running time.

From an acting point of view the cast is deft. Though Jack Black was arguably a risky cast as Carl Denham, seeing as how he is primarily a comic figure, still he was extremely convincing as the conflicted film producer. Likewise Adrien Brody is simply stunning as is Naomi Watts in their performances as playwright Jack Driscoll and starlet Ann Darrow respectively. Particularly with Watts, her iconic beauty and her poignant sincerity are fundamental in helping her mesmerize audiences. Also deserving of recognition is Thomas.

Probably one of the most amazing scenes in this film includes a Brontosaurus stampede which involves Raptors on the lookout for dinner and some very fragile humans on the run for safety. Still, equally impressive if not more so was the scene where Kong fights off three full-sized T-Rexes (for the most part) with one hand. Likewise the sacrificial scene is amazing from a visual point of view, and then again, the ending is just as impressive and impacting. I guess you could say there isn’t five minutes that goes by that you aren’t repeatedly blown away with Jackson’s vision. This is a remake done right!

“King Kong” was the proud recipient of 3 Academy Awards: Best Achievement in Sound (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, Hammond Peck); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Mike Hopkins and Ethan Van der Ryn); and Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Joe Letteri, Brian Van’t Hul, Christian Rivers, Richard Taylor). Additionally the film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Achievement in Art Direction (Grant Major- art director, and Dan Hennah and Simon Bright- set decorators). “King Kong” also received 13 other critical film associations’ awards including the BAFTA Film Award for Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects and was awarded the UK’s Empire Award’s Best Film Award. Additionally “King Kong” received 2 Golden Globe nominations: Best Director (Peter Jackson), and Best Original Score (James Netwon Howard) as well as 24 other critical film award nominations.

Main Character:

Naomi Watts plays Ann Darrow, the aspiring starlet.

Jack Black plays Carl Denham, the amoral film producer.

Adrien Bordy plays Jack Driscoll, up-and-coming playwright.

Thomas Krestchmann plays Englehorn, the loyal Captain.

Colin Hanks plays Preston, Denham’s moral assistant.

Evan Parke plays Hayes, Englehorn’s right mate.

Jamie Bell plays Jimmy, the wild-boy.

Kyle Chandler plays Bruce Baxter, Denham’s male lead.

Memorable Quotes:

Denham: The story has changed. The script has been re-written. Life has intervened.

Denham: God dammit Preston, all you had to do was look her in the eye and lie.

Denham: I’m someone you can trust Ann, I’m a movie producer.

Denham: I want you to imagine a handsome explorer bound for the Far East.
Darrow: You’re filming in the Far East?
Denham: Singapore. On board ship he meets a mysterious girl. She’s beautiful. She’s fragile, and haunting. And she can’t escape the feeling that forces beyond her control are compelling her down a road from which she cannot draw back. It’s as if her whole life has been a prelude to this moment: this fateful meeting that changes everything. Now sure enough, against her better judgment…
Darrow: She falls in love.
Denham: Yes.
Darrow: But she doesn’t trust it. She’s not even sure if she believes in love.
Denham: Uh, really?
Darrow: If she loves someone she’s doomed.
Denham: Why is that?
Darrow: Good things never last Mr. Denham.
Denham: So you’re interested. Good.

Driscoll: “Actors, travel the world and all they ever see is the mirror”.

Denham: I’m finished. It’s over for me Jack.
Driscoll: How did you think this would end Carl?

Driscoll: It’s in the subtext.

Jimmy: why does Marlowe keep going up the river?
Hayes: There’s a part of him that wants to Jimmy. A part within that sounds a deep warning. But then there’s another part of him that needs to know, to know the thing he fears so that he can destroy it…
Jimmy: It’s not an adventure story, is it Mr. Hayes?
Hayes: No, Jimmy. Its not.

Baxter: “Hey pal, wake up. Heroes don’t look like me, not in the real world. In the real world they’ve got bad teeth, a bald spot, and a beer gut. I’m just an actor with a gun who’s lost his way. Be seeing you.”

Preston: He was right, about there still being some mystery in this world. And we can all have a piece of it: for the price of an admission ticket.
Driscoll: That’s the thing you learn to love about Carl: his unfailing ability to destroy the things he loves.

Denham: “It wasn’t airplanes. It was beauty that killed the beast.”