The Return of the King
Among the numerous witty, silly, and insightful epigrams uttered by Alfred Hitchcock floats this one: Self-plagiarism is style.
Although not as infamous as his cattle-actor references, or as naughty as his quip about Tallulah Bankhead's fuzzies, it's more substantial than either, and serves as a solid starting point for a discussion of Peter Jackson's King Kong, which, according to it, is a prime example of style.
For the past four films, Jackson has essentially been remaking his previous films and perfecting a style he first toyed with in the fantasy sequences of Heavenly Creatures — if not earlier still. Although this was excusable (perhaps even desirable) when these films were part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, brought to King Kong the style is stale. Furthermore, no longer supported by a well-known story and classic characters, it becomes obvious.
A good example of Jackson's self-plagiarism is the first battle on Skull Island between the main cast of characters and a swarm of ravenous
orcs native savages. Not only are the baddies in both films look-alikes (dark bodies decorated with war paint and dried mud), but, more importantly, they're filmed in the same way: close-ups of snarling, teeth-baring faces intercut with medium-shots of the blurred movement of masses of jerky bodies; armies of arms swinging weapons intercut with sound-enhanced shots of impact; “good” visually represented by individual characters and immobility; and “evil” shown as a collective character and reckless motion. Although distinct events do occur within the battle, they're separated by this almost generic chaos-footage. Sneak some footage of the climactic battle of The Fellowship of the Ring into the scene, and it'd take a perceptive viewer to notice a difference.
Another common visual gimmick employed by Jackson in King Kong and the Lord of the Rings films is the slow-motion zoom. Used primarily to highlight scary details meant to shock the viewer — like a skull stuck on a stick or the wet snout of an orc — the technique creates a jerky kind of emphasis of its focal object or body part. It's something that particularly bugs me about Jackson's films.
Of course, there are also two tones in which to read Hitchcock's statement: straight or deadpan. I think Hitch was more fond of the latter, but who knows? On one hand, King Kong may indeed be the work of filmmaker with a mature, unique style; or it may be the work of a hack whose style depends not on personal vision or technical mastery, but on the recycling of a handful of cinematic tricks and frills. Each viewer judges for him- or herself.