First, it’s very, very good in most respects. The effects are stunning, the story is a bit deeper than the original, and Andy Serkis as Kong is so good that the Academy will almost certainly ignore him for his work again, as they did for his portrayal of Gollum, because they can’t imagine that there’s a real actor behind the CGI performance. He studied gorillas for months to get the behavior right, and his Kong is totally a gorilla, instead of just a big ape. Eventually they’re going to have to realize that work like this is no different from an actor in make-up, and when has that ever turned off an Academy member?
Second, it’s way, way too long. Three hours, for a simple story like this? Come on. Recall that Fay Wray was never less that totally terrified by Kong’s attentions, which strikes me as a completely sane response. I loved the scene where Naomi Watts dances for her life, bonding with the Big Guy, but after that, making her an actual advocate for Kong, putting herself in danger, struck me as over the top. The story has been described as the love story of a woman and a 24-foot ape, but to me it’s a story of a boy and his dog. Kong clearly likes her, and I can believe that. But he likes her because she can do fun tricks. My take: he’d eventually tire of her and find a new toy.
More drawbacks: Let’s face it, Adrien Brody is a stiff. I’ve seen hat-racks with more of an emotional range. It was pure fluke that he landed the perfect role for himself, a man so deep in hiding that he barely speaks at all through a long and grueling movie, The Pianist, that won him the Oscar. And though I love Jack Black, he was wrong for this movie. This one belongs to Naomi Watts and the brilliant Andy Serkis.