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Peter Jackson knows how to produce a spectacle-and no word better describes King Kong than spectacle. But this surprisingly violent film is not for young children-the action is graphic and contains profanity.
Kong (rated PG-13 for frightening adventure violence and some disturbing images) doesn't have much subtext, and for that we should be grateful. Mr. Jackson has remained faithful to the original film's goal: producing a crowd-pleasing adventure with an implausible but touching platonic love story at its heart.
Mr. Jackson takes his time-about 70 minutes-getting the story's hodgepodge film crew, including manic director Carl Denham (Jack Black), writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), film star Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler), and lost girl Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) to Skull Island. As in the Lord of the Rings films, Mr. Jackson is completely committed to this story and these characters, giving them all the back story they need to register with the audience.
Once the boat crashes onto the rocks surrounding the island and the motley crew goes ashore, though, Mr. Jackson works overtime to repay the patience of his audience. The natives are ferocious, the enormous bugs and even bigger dinosaurs easily outdo anything Steven Spielberg has given us, and Kong-well, Kong is a sight to behold.
Mr. Jackson and his Weta Workshop crew again set the standard for convincing special effects that integrate seamlessly with a compelling story. One just wishes that they weren't quite so pleased with their own work. Kong battles nearly every creature imaginable on the island as he protects his new love, and while the battles are spectacular, they also become wearying.
Legend has it that the director of the original 1933 film cut a spider cave sequence because it made test audiences vomit. Imagine how they would have responded had they seen Mr. Jackson's over-the-top sequence with carnivorous insects, spiders, and some really revolting worms. (I'm not sure that modern audiences need it, either.)