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King Kong (2005)

A greedy film producer assembles a team of moviemakers and sets out for the infamous Skull Island, where they find more than just cannibalistic natives.

King Kong (2005) Trailer

 

King Kong (2005) Reviews

It was beauty killed the beast.

There are astonishments to behold in Peter Jackson’s new “King Kong,” but one sequence, relatively subdued, holds the key to the movie’s success. Kong has captured Ann Darrow and carried her to his perch high on the mountain. He puts her down, not roughly, and then begins to roar, bare his teeth and pound his chest.

Ann, an unemployed vaudeville acrobat, somehow instinctively knows that the gorilla is not threatening her but trying to impress her by behaving as an alpha male — the King of the Jungle. She doesn’t know how Queen Kong would respond, but she does what she can: She goes into her stage routine, doing backflips, dancing like Chaplin, juggling three stones.

Her instincts and empathy serve her well. Kong’s eyes widen in curiosity, wonder and finally what may pass for delight. From then on, he thinks of himself as the girl’s possessor and protector. She is like a tiny beautiful toy that he has been given for his very own, and before long, they are regarding the sunset together, both of them silenced by its majesty.

The scene is crucial because it removes the element of creepiness in the gorilla/girl relationship in the two earlier “Kongs” (1933 and 1976), creating a wordless bond that allows her to trust him. When Jack Driscoll climbs the mountain to rescue her, he finds her comfortably nestled in Kong’s big palm.

Ann and Kong in this movie will be threatened by dinosaurs, man-eating worms, giant bats, loathsome insects, spiders, machineguns and the Army Air Corps, and could fall to their death into chasms on Skull Island or from the Empire State Building. But Ann will be as safe as Kong can make her, and he will protect her even from her own species.

The movie more or less faithfully follows the outlines of the original film, but this fundamental adjustment in the relationship between the beauty and the beast gives it heart, a quality the earlier film was lacking. Yes, Kong in 1933 cares for his captive, but she doesn’t care so much for him. Kong was always misunderstood, but in the 2005 film, there is someone who knows it.

As Kong ascends the skyscraper, Ann screams not because of the gorilla but because of the attacks on the gorilla by a society that assumes he must be destroyed. The movie makes the same kind of shift involving a giant gorilla that Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977) did when he replaced 1950s attacks on alien visitors with a very 1970s attempt to communicate with them (by 2005, Spielberg was back to attacking them, in “War of the Worlds”).

“King Kong” is a magnificent entertainment. It is like the flowering of all the possibilities in the original classic film. Computers are used not merely to create special effects, but also to create style and beauty, to find a look for the film that fits its story. And the characters are not cardboard heroes or villains seen in stark outline, but quirky individuals with personalities.

Consider the difference between Robert Armstrong (1933) and Jack Black (2005) as Carl Denham, the movie director who lands an unsuspecting crew on Skull Island. A Hollywood stereotype based on Cecil B. DeMille has been replaced by one who reminds us more of Orson Welles.

And in the starring role of Ann Darrow, Naomi Watts expresses a range of emotion that Fay Wray, bless her heart, was never allowed in 1933. Never have damsels been in more distress, but Fay Wray mostly had to scream, while Watts looks into the gorilla’s eyes and sees something beautiful there.

There was a stir when Jackson informed the home office that his movie would run 187 minutes. The executives had something around 140 minutes in mind, so they could turn over the audience more quickly (despite the greedy 20 minutes of paid commercials audiences now have inflicted upon them).

After they saw the movie, their objections were stilled. Yes, the movie is a tad too long, and we could do without a few of the monsters and overturned elevated trains. But it is so well done that we are complaining, really, only about too much of a good thing. This is one of the great modern epics.

Jackson, fresh from his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, wisely doesn’t show the gorilla or the other creatures until more than an hour into the movie. In this he follows Spielberg, who fought off producers who wanted the shark in “Jaws” to appear virtually in the opening titles. There is an hour of anticipation, of low ominous music, of subtle rumblings, of uneasy squints into the fog and mutinous grumblings from the crew, before the tramp steamer arrives at Skull Island — or, more accurately, is thrown against its jagged rocks in the first of many scary action sequences.

During that time, we see Depression-era breadlines and soup kitchens, and meet the unemployed heroes of the film: Ann Darrow (Watts), whose vaudeville theater has closed, and who is faced with debasing herself in burlesque; Carl Denham (Black), whose footage for a new movie is so unconvincing that the movie’s backers want to sell it off as background footage; Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), a playwright whose dreams lie Off-Broadway and who thrusts 15 pages of a first draft screenplay at Denham and tries to disappear.

They all find themselves aboard the tramp steamer of Capt. Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann), who is persuaded to cast off just as Denham’s creditors arrive on the docks in police cars. They set course for the South Seas, where Denham believes an uncharted island may hold the secret of a box office blockbuster. On board, Ann and Jack grow close, but not too close, because the movie’s real love story is between the girl and the gorilla.

Once on Skull Island, the second act of the movie is mostly a series of hair-curling special effects, as overgrown prehistoric creatures endlessly pursue the humans, occasionally killing or eating a supporting character. The bridges and logs over chasms, so important in 1933, are even better used here, especially when an assortment of humans and creatures fall in stages from a great height, resuming their deadly struggle whenever they can grab a convenient vine, rock or tree. Two story lines are intercut: Ann and the ape, and everybody else and the other creatures.

The third act returns to Manhattan, which looks uncannily evocative and atmospheric. It isn’t precisely realistic, but more of a dreamed city in which key elements swim in and out of view. There’s a poetic scene where Kong and the girl find a frozen pond in Central Park, and the gorilla is lost in delight as it slides on the ice. It’s in scenes like this that Andy Serkis is most useful as the actor who doesn’t so much play Kong as embody him for the f/x team. He adds the body language.

Some of the Manhattan effects are not completely convincing (and earlier, on Skull Island, it’s strange how the fleeing humans seem to run beneath the pounding feet of the T. rexes without quite occupying the same space). But special effects do not need to be convincing if they are effective, and Jackson trades a little realism for a lot of impact and momentum. The final ascent of the Empire State Building is magnificent, and for once, the gorilla seems the same size in every shot.

Although Naomi Watts makes a splendid heroine, there have been complaints that Jack Black and Adrien Brody are not precisely hero material. Nor should they be, in my opinion. They are a director and a writer. They do not require big muscles and square jaws. What they require are strong personalities that can be transformed under stress.

Denham the director clings desperately to his camera, no matter what happens to him, and Driscoll the writer beats a strategic retreat before essentially rewriting his personal role in his own mind. Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler) is an actor who plays the movie’s hero, and now has to decide if he can play his role for real. And Preston (Colin Hanks) is a production assistant who, as is often the case, would be a hero if anybody would give him a chance.

The result is a surprisingly involving and rather beautiful movie — one that will appeal strongly to the primary action audience, and also cross over to people who have no plans to see “King Kong” but will change their minds the more they hear. I think the film even has a message, and it isn’t that beauty killed the beast. It’s that we feel threatened by beauty, especially when it overwhelms us, and we pay a terrible price when we try to deny its essential nature and turn it into a product, or a target. This is one of the year’s best films.

  • Roger Ebert  –  Roger Ebert
  • Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

I am one of the few people who will admit to liking the 1976 version of King Kong. There are three reasons for this. It was the first movie I saw in an indoor movie theater and, as such, it left an imprint on the impressionable mind of a nine-year old boy. I enjoy the campy approach taken by the filmmakers – why not ham it up? Finally, there’s the music, which outclasses every other aspect of the production. For King Kong, John Barry turned in one of the greatest scores that no one pays attention to.

If the movie had a better reputation, people wouldn’t scoff when I write something like “this is arguably the most underrated score of all time.” And it’s not farfetched to say this is the best soundtrack composed by Barry – and I’m not forgetting Dances with Wolves (look a little farther down the list) or his numerous James Bond contributions. King Kong is majestic stuff. Don’t believe me? Close your eyes while watching the movie (to block out the silly guy in the ape suit) and listen.

King Kong has a lush, romantic score. There are three basic moods. One, typified by “Maybe My Luck Has Changed,” “Arrival on the Island,” and “Arthusa,” is light and playful. Another hints at danger, as in “The Opening,” “Full Moon Domain,” and “Breakout to Captivity.” Finally, there are the percussive, warlike strains of “Incomprehensible Captivity,” “Climb to Skull Island,” and “The End is at Hand.”

The soundtrack is difficult to find. It has been out of print for as long as I can remember. Copies show up every once in a while on E-bay. I bought my CD, an Italian import, in the early 1990s.

The sound quality isn’t great, and several of the tracks feature annoying sound effects (Kong roaring in “Breakout to Captivity,” for example), but it contains all 13 tracks and appears to be legitimate (in other words, not pirated). Select cuts are available on a few of the many John Barry compilations. Most of these are variations of the main title theme (“The Opening”) and/or the love theme (“Maybe My Luck Has Changed”).

Feel free to hurl invectives, but I won’t back down. King Kong is my second-favorite soundtrack, and it holds an honored place in my CD collection. I don’t try to hide it from visitors. And I listen to it often (although not as often as I might if it was a superlative transfer). There’s only one soundtrack that I prefer, and I’ll get to that next. (One hint – unless you know me personally, you’re unlikely to be able to guess it. In fact, even if you know me personally, you might be wrong.)

  • A thought by James Berardinelli

 

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King Kong (2005) Credits

King Kong movie poster

King Kong (2005)

Rated PG-13 for frightening adventure violence and some disturbing images

187 minutes

Cast

Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow

Jack Black as Carl Denham

Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll

Thomas Kretschmann as Capt. Englehorn

Colin Hanks as Preston

Andy Serkis as Lumpy

Evan Parke as Hayes

Directed by

  • Peter Jackson

Written by

  • Fran Walsh
  • Philippa Boyens
  • Peter Jackson

Based on a story by

  • Merian C. Cooper
  • Edgar Wallace

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King Kong (2005) Plot

In 1933, during the Great Depression, New York City actress Ann Darrow is hired by financially troubled filmmaker Carl Denham to star in a film with actor Bruce Baxter. Ann learns her favorite playwright, Jack Driscoll, is the screenwriter. Filming takes place on the SS Venture, under Captain Englehorn, and under Carl’s pretense it will be sailing to Singapore. In truth, Carl intends to film the mysterious Skull Island. Captain Englehorn reconsiders the voyage, prompted by his crew’s speculation of trouble ahead. During the voyage, Ann and Jack fall in love.

The Venture receives a radio message informing Englehorn there is a warrant for Carl’s arrest due to his defiance of the studio’s orders to cease production, and instructing Englehorn to divert to Rangoon, but the ship becomes lost in fog and runs aground on Skull Island.

Carl and his film crew, including cameraman Herb, assistant Preston, actor Bruce Baxter, and boom operator Mike, explore the island and are attacked by natives who kill Mike and a crewman. Englehorn rescues the film crew, but as they prepare to leave, a native sneaks onto the ship and abducts Ann. The natives offer Ann as a sacrifice to Kong, a 25-foot-tall (7.6 m) gorilla. Jack notices Ann’s disappearance, and the crew returns to the island, but Kong flees with Ann into the jungle. Carl catches a glimpse of Kong and becomes determined to film him.

Ann wins Kong over with her juggling and dancing skills and begins to grasp his intelligence and capacity for emotion. Englehorn organizes a rescue party, led by his first mate Hayes and Jack, and accompanied by Carl, Herb, Baxter and Preston. The party gets caught between a herd of Apatosaurus-like Brontosaurus baxteri and a pack of Utahraptor-like Venatosaurus saevidicus hunting them, with Herb and several other men killed in the resulting stampede. Baxter and others return to the ship.

The remaining party members continue through the jungle when Kong attacks, making them fall into a ravine resulting in Hayes’ death and Carl losing his camera. Kong rescues Ann from three Tyrannosaurus-like Vastatosaurus rex, bringing her to his den in the mountains. The remaining rescue party are attacked by giant insects in the ravine, resulting in the death of three more crew members, but Preston, Carl, Jack, and Hayes’ apprentice Jimmy are rescued by Baxter and Englehorn.

Jack searches for Ann alone, while Carl decides to capture Kong. Jack finds Kong’s lair and accidentally awakens him, but escapes with Ann. They arrive at the wall with Kong pursuing them. Kong kills several sailors, but is subdued when Carl knocks him out with chloroform.

In New York City that winter, Carl presents “Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World” on Broadway, starring Baxter and an imprisoned Kong. Ann, who refused to take part in the performance, is played by an anonymous chorus girl. Agitated by the chorus girl not being Ann and flashes from cameras, Kong breaks free from the chains and wrecks the theater. Kong searches the city for Ann and chases Jack before encountering her again. The U.S. Army attacks, and Kong tries getting Ann and himself to safety by climbing to the top of the Empire State Building.

Six Navy planes arrive, which Kong fights. After downing three of them, Kong is mortally wounded from the planes’ gunfire and falls. As Jack reaches the top of the building to comfort and embrace Ann, civilians, policemen, and soldiers gather around the beast’s corpse in the street, one bystander commenting the airplanes got him. Carl makes his way through the crowd, takes one last look at Kong and says, “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.”

 

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King Kong (2005) Box office

In North America, King Kong grossed $9,755,745 during its Wednesday opening and $50,130,145 over its first weekend for a five-day total of $66,181,645 from around 7,500 screens at 3,568 theaters. Some analysts considered these initial numbers disappointing, saying that studio executives had been expecting more. The film went on to gross $218,080,025 in the North American market and ended up in the top five highest-grossing films of the year there.

The film grossed an additional $344,283,424 at the box office in other regions for a worldwide total of $562,363,449, which not only ranked it in the top five highest-grossing films of 2005 worldwide, but also helped the film bring back more than two-and-a-half times its production budget.

During its home video release, King Kong sold over $100 million worth of DVDs in the largest six-day performance in Universal Studios history. King Kong sold more than 7.6 million DVDs, accumulating nearly $194 million worth of sales numbers in the North American market alone. As of June 25, 2006, King Kong has generated almost $38 million from DVD rental gross. In February 2006, TNT/TBS and ABC paid Universal Studios $26.5 million for the television rights to the film.

 

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King Kong (2005) Critical Response

King Kong received positive reviews from critics. On aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 267 reviews, with an average rating of 7.68/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “Featuring state-of-the-art special effects, terrific performances, and a majestic sense of spectacle, Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong is a potent epic that’s faithful to the spirit of the 1933 original.”

On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A−” on an A+ to F scale.

It was placed on the ‘top ten’ lists of several critics, with Roger Ebert giving it four stars, and listed it as 2005’s eighth-best film. The film received four Academy Award nominations, for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, Hammond Peek), Sound Editing, and Production Design, winning all but the last.

Entertainment Weekly called the depiction of Kong the most convincing computer-generated character in film in 2005. Some criticised the film for retaining racist stereotypes that had been present in the 1933 film, though it was not suggested that Jackson had done this intentionally. King Kong ranks 450th on Empire magazine’s 2008 list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.

The Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw said that it “certainly equals, and even exceeds, anything Jackson did in Lord of the Rings.” However, Charlie Brooker, also of The Guardian, gave a negative review in which he describes the film as “sixteen times more overblown and histrionic than necessary”.

 

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King Kong (2005) Accolades

Award Subject Nominee Result
Academy Awards Best Art Direction Grant Major, Dan Hennah, and Simon Bright Nominated
Best Sound Editing Mike Hopkins and Ethan Van der Ryn Won
Best Sound Mixing Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, and Hammond Peek Won
Best Visual Effects Joe Letteri, Brian Van’t Hul, Christian Rivers, and Richard Taylor Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Special Visual Effects Joe Letteri, Brian Van’t Hul, Christian Rivers, and Richard Taylor Won
Best Production Design Grant Major Nominated
Best Sound Hammond Peek, Christopher Boyes, Mike Hopkins, and Ethan Van der Ryn Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Director Peter Jackson Nominated
Best Original Score James Newton Howard Nominated
Saturn Award Best Fantasy Film Nominated
Best Director Peter Jackson Won
Best Writing Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and Peter Jackson Nominated
Best Actress Naomi Watts Won
Best Costume Terry Ryan Nominated
Best Make-Up Richard Taylor, Gino Acevedo, Dominie Till, and Peter King Nominated
Best Special Effects Joe Letteri, Brian Van’t Hul, Christian Rivers, and Richard Taylor Won
Visual Effects Society Outstanding Visual Effects in an
Effects Driven Motion Picture
Joe Letteri, Eileen Moran, Christian Rivers, and Eric Saindon Won
Outstanding Performance by an Animated
Character in a Live Action Motion Picture
Andy Serkis, Christian Rivers, Atsushi Sato, and Guy Williams Won
Outstanding Created Environment in a
Live Action Motion Picture
Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Matt Aitken, and Charles Tait Won
Outstanding Compositing in a Motion Picture Erik Winquist, Michaell Pangrazio, Steve Cronin, and Suzanne Jandu Nominated

 

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King Kong (2005) Movie Info

Peter Jackson’s expansive remake of the 1933 classic follows director Carl Denham (Jack Black) and his crew on a journey from New York City to the ominous Skull Island to film a new movie. Accompanying him are playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) and actress Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who is whisked away by the monstrous ape, Kong, after they reach the island. The crew encounters dinosaurs and other creatures as they race to rescue Ann, while the actress forms a bond with her simian captor.

 

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