King Kong

King Kong ★★★★★

What can I say about "King Kong" that hasn't already been said a thousand times? It's amazing, perhaps the first true special effects driven blockbuster. But what effects! Kong himself is worth a million soulless Transformers. There's a spark to this creature, a sense of inner life and true emotion in its eyes and its expressive face, in its gestures and reactions. Kong is not photo-realistic, but he IS believable. He's the finest monster in film history, and the one that gathers our sympathies the most easily. If you aren't rooting for Kong by the end of this film, there's something wrong with you. He's not only the monster of the picture, he's its dark, tragic hero as well. He is motivated by Love, after all. What's more noble than that? If he wasn't, why would he reject all the other women he encounters during his time in New York City? He doesn't want just any woman, he wants the only one who has truly captured his heart. Also, he kicks so much dinosaur ass, more than everyone in the "Jurassic Park" series combined. Anything that can kill a Tyrannosaurus with its bare hands has my admiration, I don't know about you. Like Frankenstein's monster, Kong is merely misunderstood and indelicate toward the morality of the human world. He's an outsider, an outcast, a glorious freak from the prehistoric age. He's also a god. We are mere insects to him. So why shouldn't he kill us en masse? What does it matter to him?

Aside from Kong, the film has much more to recommend it. It races along at a breathless pace, not letting up for a moment once it introduces us to Kong and his adversaries on Skull Island. The acting by Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot and especially Fay Wray, the finest scream queen in motion picture history. Each of these actors brings a welcome charisma to their roles and keeps the movie interesting even when the mighty Kong is offscreen. Wray was the subject of more salacious exploitation in this film than I remembered, but she still impresses. The screenplay is still a model of blockbuster craftsmanship, sketching characters efficiently on the run, briskly and convincingly moving from one phenomenal set piece to another. In an era when special effects films have become slack, over-long, dull, paint-by-number affairs whose effects aren't even special, "King Kong" is perhaps even more impressive than ever, especially in its effects, which still impress as few modern blockbusters can. As I said, there seems to be a soul in Kong. He's a character, not just an effect. Andy Serkis and Peter Jackson's team of special effects wizards did a fantastic job of recapturing this magic in the 2005 version of "King Kong", but they didn't surpass it. In fact, I'm not sure anyone ever has.

This is my favorite version of "Beauty and the Beast".

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