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King Kong

The Lord of the Rings director’s remake of the 30s classic is an absolute beast of a movie

Distributor Universal Pictures UK | Certificate 12 | Price £25

Kong has suffered some terrible treatment over the years: the Japanese pitted him against Godzilla; then he was the subject of a risible 70s remake. At the very least, Peter Jackson’s version restores the beast’s dignity.

King Kong inspired Jackson to become a filmmaker, so not surprisingly his version’s pretty faithful. He does tweak some naive storytelling, though. Now, when film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) visits the mythical Skull Island, he takes a camera crew and script too – mysteriously absent on previous outings! Otherwise, Jackson’s approach is to chuck in some gross giant insects and beef up the set-pieces – so Kong now grapples not one but three gorgeously-rendered T-Rexes.

Weta’s CG effects are impressive, particularly the eerily expressive ape himself. However, in one major addition – a startling dinosaur stampede sequence – the actors never really seem to be part of the chaos surrounding them. And Jacko’s decision to make the “love affair” between Kong and actress Ann Darrow less one-sided is misguided, culminating in high camp when the two go ice-skating on a frozen river. What next, you wonder – candlelit dinner for two?

The three-hour running time also tests the patience (and the arse) – it’s 53 minutes before we even get to Skull Island. So the 1933 original remains the better film and Jackson’s movie, while undeniably a great achievement, is also a grand folly. Anyone not exhausted at journey’s end will be once they’ve ploughed through over three hours’ worth of extras – mostly made up of Jackson’s post-production video diaries.