Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Short version: When it's good, it's very good, but when it's not, it feels really, REALLY long.
Watching Peter Jackson's version of King Kong, it is abundantly clear that the man feels as strongly about the original 1933 film as he did about Tolkein's Lord of the Rings books. One can really feel how earnestly he guided this film, paying homage to the original while expanding on it more than just a little bit. Unfortunately the "expansion" is one of the problems with the movie, but I'll get to that in a bit.
I don't suppose I really need to go into the story itself, but there are a few changes from and additions to this version when compared to the 1933 film. Here, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is shown to be a stage performer at the outset of the film, basically doing Vaudeville shows during the Great Depression in order to make a living. Time is spent up front showing the state of things in New York City in regards to the struggle to survive in that devastating economic downturn (to great effect). We meet her co-perfomers, a tight-knight little family including an elderly gentleman who passes for a father figure for her, and we get to know at least Ann and this gentleman well enough in the few early minutes of the film to really feel for them when the theater where they perform is unceremoniously closed down.
Cut to Carl Denham (played by an unusually subdued Jack Black) in a meeting with "money men", trying to pitch his movie-in-progress and get more money to go shoot on location at the mysterious island indicated on a map which has just come into his possession. He is portrayed as a man with a vision throwing his cinematic pearls before monied, but ignorant swine. The financiers have already sunk $40,000 into his picture (big bucks back then) and decide to cut their losses and sell off what Jack has filmed so far as stock footage.
Jack overhears this and decides to take off with the existing rolls of film plus all the camera equipment to make the movie anyway, despite the loss of his leading actress and all financing. In a manner very similar to the original film he finds Ann, although here it takes a bit more convincing to talk her into joining him. There's a funny throwaway line in there about his being trustworthy because he's a movie producer.