OK, we get it. The big ape climbs up the Empire State Building and swats at 1920s era bi-plane aircraft. It's just like "The Titanic," with the most horrible thing imaginable happening at the end.
Why should anyone need to see a remake of "King Kong," this time directed by Peter Jackson, who won a warehouse worth of Oscars for his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy? Is the trick for success in this kind of endeavor simply doing the most horrible thing imaginable with more visceral detail than the predecessor?
Yes, the 1933 original with Faye Wray as Anne Darrow is an icon of American cinema. But the 1976 version, the Jessica Lange in the Anne Darrow-dress version, already spiffed up the possibilities, in terms of our cinematic appetite for pseudo-erotic destruction in technicolor. About six months ago, another remake, “War of the Worlds,” succeeded in rendering the most horrible thing imaginable to audiences, and considering the world-weariness of our eyes tuned to the 21st century, that’s a pretty neat trick. But “War of the Worlds” didn’t make as much of a splash last summer during a season awash in action films.
However, in this version of “Kong,” the director has managed to subdivide a lot of new territory into the story, transforming it into a world-class “Moby Dick” on American life, a tragedy for the ages, a veritable MacBeth for the McCulture.
Rather than just relying on amazing action, Jackson sets the stage with useful character development in the movie's first hour or so, building the tension. A fly-by-night director (played by Jack Black) pulls together his movie production team in the 1930s to film scenes on a mysterious, uncharted island. Returning the original story’s period and character styles to the 1930s restores that “Lost World” classicism film buffs will love.
Thus, to find an actress to fit the Ann Darrow dress, we are led to “discover” and fall in love with a new “Kong” heroine, Naomi Watts, who plays this role with tenderness and athletic panache.
Jackson hammers the viewer over the head with the idea, but it fits: “King Kong” is, if rendered with a hand sensitive enough to show the story’s tender side, worthy of Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness.”
And so man-as-movie-director is a parallel to the beast, a Kurtz-like paramount ego. In a perverse demonstration of man’s ability to Disney-fy the environment to meet his own greedy desires, a super-sized ape capable of winning a brawl against the most terrifying of all creatures, the T-Rex (take that, Steven Spielberg), is as vulnerable as anything else to the worst beast of the jungle: man as mortal creator.
Of course, this symbolic brainstorm notwithstanding, let’s just say the action is so intense, you’ll come out of the theater covered in popcorn, as if the bucket had exploded in the back-draft. Guys, if your date doesn’t weep, get a new girl.