Following the smashing success of the Lord of the Rings films, Jackson had the cred to get a pet project off the ground. A remake of 1933’s classic King Kong. He wanted to make an epic, and it is far from the cheesey camp of the 1976 film starring Jessica Lang, Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin.
Instead of updating the location to modern times, Jackson meticulously recreates 1930s New York. He introduces us to Carl Denham, a director who dreams very big and is trying to secure financing to go to a mysterious island shown on a map he has acquired. He hires down on his luck playwright Jack Driscoll to write a script for a grand adventure. He finds a beautiful leading lady in struggling actress Ann Darrow. His male lead is the egotistical Bruce Baxter.
They get on a boat, go to Skull Island, explore, find monsters, the Natives kidnap Ann who is sacrificed to a mysterious monster. The monster is the giant ape Kong who takes a liking to Darrow. Jack and Carl lead the crew to rescue Ann. Denham, of course, has an ulterior motive of getting film of the monsters on the island. They save Ann, capture Kong and Kong is brought to New York. Kong Breaks free and runs amok in the city.
Jackson hits all the beats, and it all sounds exciting. He is very faithful to the original story. Except…well, in typical Peter Jackson fashion, he overdoes it. The film takes an hour to set things up. A full hour before they get to Skull Island. All in a misguided attempt to set up character motivation and romance. Once on Skull Island, the film picks up and gets very exciting. But an hour of setup and added time for the reveal of King Kong…makes for a dull and slow film. The whole cruel savages approach to Skull Island’s natives is embarrassingly dated.
The performance by Andy Serkis as Kong is really impressive looking. The digital Kong is still impressive looking. But the film clocks in at three hours (and that is before Jackson’s expanded cut) and that results ina ridiculous amount of bloated storytelling.