Impossibly beating all odds, destroying every bad memory about the 1976 remake, and setting a new standard for creature features, King Kong is a remarkable film. It's intense, brutal, and draining on every emotion. You're actually tired after leaving the cinema. Peter Jackson's remake is a $207 million gift for every Kong fan in the world, and except for a few ugly spots, it's hard to imagine a better way to resurrect one of cinema's all time greats.
Things move fast for a movie clocking in at over 180 minutes. There are numerous extended sequences on the boat as Carl Denham (Jack Black) takes a crew to Skull Island for his final shot at fame. The benefit to this is character development, establishing real relationships that play a huge role when the title character finally runs onto the screen. Time goes by quickly, and the countless little nods to the original (including an early RKO/Merian C. Cooper reference) will bring a smile to anyone who appreciates the 1933 version.
Jackson's direction follows a straight path that doesn't stray far in pacing. Once the initial set up is taken care of, there's hardly a scene in the movie that doesn't feature Kong or one of his island co-inhabitants, just like the '33 Kong. If you felt the opening exposition was dull, you'll forget that those dialogue scenes were even included once the sure-to-be-nominated special effects from WETA take over.
It's rather pointless to remake a film without adding something to make it stand out. Peter Jackson leaves his mark on the King Kong legacy. There's a scene not long after Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts in a perfectly believable performance) is kidnapped in which she finally realizes Kong is not going to harm her. She begins performing her Vaudeville act, and the giant ape is mesmerized. He laughs, plays, and bounces around like a child.
There are multiple scenes like this, and the focus is clearly on Ann and Kong for the entire movie. Turning the large ape into a believable creature (as opposed to a typical rampaging beast) works on countless levels, and the film's finale is easily the best of the three takes on this story. The emotional pull is unbearable as the agonizing sequence continues to bombard the viewer with one cringe inducing moment to the next. There's a reason Kong is made out to be the victim, and the ending proves why.