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Kong’ a grand, wild ride

Observer Scene | Wednesday, January 18, 2006

With his “Lord of the Rings” masterpiece behind him, Peter Jackson returns to the screen with another epic of kingly proportions. The release of “King Kong” brings together a motley mix of proven actors, one known for his comedy and the giant simian himself, Kong.

The film brings the audience to an unknown island filled with natives and stories of wonders too great to be spoken of. Jackson takes viewers on a ride filled with a mysterious sea captain, a woman in love with acting and looking for a paycheck, a fame-starved movie director and the plethora of oversized fauna that only a long-lost island could provide.

The first hour of this three-hour carnival ride involves director Carl Denham (Jack Black) bringing his cast and crew to an uncharted island on a map he discovered to film what he believes will be his ticket to fame and fortune. Jack Black adeptly plays Denham, giving the right amount of crazed genius to the character without going over the top. Naomi Watts stars as Ann Darrow, an actress who goes along for the ride, literally, as Denham promises her she will be a star and finally get the credit she thinks she (more humbly than Denham) deserves. Adrien Brody, as a writer whom Denham takes to write his script, and Thomas Kretschmann, as the mysterious and opportunistic Captain Englehorn, fill out the rest of the cast.

Once they arrive at the aforementioned island, the situation begins to come apart at the seams, as the natives capture Darrow and offer her to Kong. The oversized gorilla takes her away into the forest, which is when the audience begins to have fun. The island where Kong abides is filled with some of the most wonderful creatures seen on the silver screen in a long while. Viewers, along with the characters, happen upon giant, skin-crawling insects, leeches the size of lions and centipedes as long as an arm. There are giant bats and, most impressively, dinosaurs that stampede through the valleys of island and T-Rexes whose only purpose in life, it seems, is to eat Darrow. All of the strange animals that are encountered on this long-lost island create a fun-filled ride that Jackson seems to have had a blast directing and creating.

The real star of the show, however, is the giant gorilla Kong. Using motion-capture technology, Andy Serkis brings his Gollum acting chops to this gargantuan behemoth of a gorilla. The gymnastic movement employed by Serkis gives a life to Kong that would be otherwise impossible. This is most vividly expressed when he fights three Tyrannosaurus Rexes while managing to keep them away from Darrow. There is perhaps no more enjoyable moment in the film than watching Kong battle three dinosaurs through the canopy of the island’s forests and then down onto a plain where he finally defeats the final one in a glorious, bone-crunching moment.

The film’s plot revolves around Kong falling in love with Darrow and how she conflicts with her growing fondness for him and her desire to get away from him and back to the humans. This may seem conceited or pretentious to some, but if disbelief is suspended for three hours and audiences allow themselves to be wowed by the strange encounters in the film, this is one of the most fun and entertaining films one can see this year.

After finishing “Lord of the Rings,” Jackson said he wanted to have some fun and with this film, he gives us an adventure where seeing a giant gorilla on top of the Empire State building seems credible.