With the success of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, clearly Peter Jackson had a tough act to follow. Yet Jackson's follow-up, another remake of the epic adventure “King Kong,” proves to be the right project for a director who clearly understands the art of the action genre.
“Kong” does trudge along at times with a three-hour running time, but it still works, thanks to the final two-thirds in which each action sequence trumps the previous one.
“King Kong” follows a film crew to a remote island in the 1930s. The film's director, Carl Denham (Jack Black), is desperate to finish his work and convinced that shooting on location in this remote land will be just what he needs to secure the picture's shaky financial backing.
Among the people joining Denham on this journey are Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), a down-on-her-luck actress, and Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), a writer and friend of Denham's.
Once the group gets to the island, they get more than they bargained for, with a land full of prehistoric creatures and a 25-foot ape, which happens to develop an affection for Darrow.
Jackson takes a slow and methodical approach to the story, with Kong not appearing until over an hour into the film. But like that first climb on a rollercoaster, once the action picks up steam, it is nonstop.
Jackson fills the screen with one fabulous chase after another. It's like watching “Jurassic Park” on amphetamines. There are dinosaurs, bats, man-sized insects - enough danger to fill three action movies.
The action doesn't let up once “Kong” hits New York, with a finale atop the Empire State Building that left me gasping.
But “King Kong” has more going for it than the action sequences. At its core, the film is a love story between woman and beast. Their love has a sense of credibility that gives “Kong” a touch of tenderness and Jackson (and especially Watts) deserve praise for making that relationship work.
Black is also pretty good as the smarmy director, but Brody is stuck in a role that just doesn't display his talents.
This remake is sure to be compared to its two predecessors. It's been a while since I've seen the original and honestly, my only memory of the 1976 version centers around me sneaking into a theater to watch the last half of the film (a long story best saved for another day). With that in mind, I don't think I'm the one who can accurately compare the three films.
But I do know one thing - I enjoy a good action film just like the next person. And this isn't just a good action film, “Kong” is a very good one.
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Rating: PG-13 for frightening adventure violence and disturbing images
Playing at: Great Escape 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)