Two years after finishing the masterful “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, director Peter Jackson proves once again that he is indeed the world’s
premiere epic filmmaker with his triumphant remake of the 1933 classic: “King Kong.”

Jackson’s version is a spectacular film in more than a few regards.  The first and foremost is Naomi Watts.  She plays Ann Darrow, a
struggling vaudeville actress who accepts a role in a mysterious motion picture headed by Carl Denham (Jack Black).  Watts is responsible
for selling not only her character but also the character of Kong.  Her quiet moments with the giant ape give the movie its heart and depth.  
A lesser actress could have ruined the emotional aspect of this film, but despite working against blue-screen with a character that doesn’t
exist, Watts gives a completely engaging performance that takes her relationship with Kong seriously, as it should be.  The way she uses
her eyes to portray the unspoken dialog is superb and worthy of award consideration.

The other obvious triumph of the film is Kong himself.  He is brought to life via CGI and based on a performance by Andy Serkis (Who also
played Gollum in Jackson’s “Rings”).  Serkis does a great job here that could be overlooked because of the lack of dialog.  His movements
never become more advanced than an ape, yet he is able to interact with Ann in a very human way.  Pay attention to his subtle hand
movements and facial expressions.  It is very detailed work.  And so is the technical wizardry that puts him on screen.  Kong is easily the
most impressive computer generated character in film history.  Sure Gollum and Yoda work great in their supporting roles, but Kong
becomes the center of this movie and completely relies on animation to portray his emotions.  It is quite an achievement to create a
synthetic character that we care about as much as we care for Kong, but Jackson and his animators make it look easy.

Speaking of Jackson, although there are a few points of over-directing, which surprisingly come in the first act before any of the action, he
does a fantastic job here.  The film is three hours long and I never felt that it dragged.  When the action starts on Skull Island (The deserted
isle where they film their movie), it is relentless and stunning.  There is a fight between Kong and three Tyrannosauruses that is one of the
best action sequences you will ever see.  When the setting moves back to Manhattan, well, you could have bet that Jackson wasn’t going to
disappoint with one of the most famous sequences in film history and he doesn’t.  Jackson is a master of creating kinetic energy with
furious camera moves without ever losing track of what is going on.  Michael Bay and every other shoddy action director need to study this
film and take notes.

The only real problem, aside from some cheesy over-directing early on, is Jack Black.  He just seems miscast here.  His performance is
adequate, yet he never sheds his goofy personality.  The character arc of his performance is non-existent.  Sure he can do the comedy, but
when he becomes obsessed with capturing Kong there needed to be more, and there isn’t.

However almost every other aspect of this film works and works well, from the excellent cinematography and production design to the
effective score by James Newton Howard.  Jackson’s “King Kong” is truly a cinematic wonder that is funny, scary, thrilling, and yes, even
heartbreaking.

* * * *
(out of four)
KING KONG
Directed by: Peter Jackson

Written by: Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter
Jackson

Starring: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas
Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis

Cinematography by: Andrew Lesnie

Music by: James Newton Howard

Released: December 14, 2005; 187 Minutes