Fresh off of directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson and his truckload of Oscars had achieved the creative freedom to do whatever he wanted with the money movie studios would provide him with. What came next was a passion project based on one of his favorite movie monsters from his childhood: King Kong.
Jackson’s 2005 film featuring the “Eighth Wonder of the World” was a smash hit praised for its cinematography, special effects, and cast ensemble, which included Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll, Jack Black as Carl Denham, and most notably, Andy Serkis as Kong. The film was also over 3 hours long because Jackson is incapable of making anything shorter. When it’s not The Hobbit, this is a good thing.
While he’s one of the greatest visual directors in cinema history, Peter Jackson is also a big video game fan. He’s gone on record expressing his love for Fallout, Far Cry, and Modern Warfare in several interviews. He has seen the potential in video game storytelling and was even signed on to direct a Halo movie that sadly never came to fruition. Jackson was disappointed with the games based on the Lord of the Rings series, despite their critical acclaim, and decided to personally contribute to the making of the King Kong (2005) video game.
A movie director heavily contributing to a video game is generally unheard of, and his involvement shone through in Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (or PJKKTOGOTM for short). Actually, how about I just call it King Kong: The Game?
For its time, King Kong: The Game set the standard for video game visuals and sound design. The game is a first-person survival thriller in which you have to fight against the creatures of Skull Island with a restrictive amount of tools and ammunition. The majority of the game has you play as Adrien Brody (I’ve decided that using the names of the actors is more fun) as he quests with the other members of the Venture to save Naomi Watts from Kong (I’ll still use the monkey’s name because monkey).
What makes the first-person gameplay so gripping is the lack of a heads-up display to let you know how much health or ammo you have while facing off against Raptors and Megapedes. Instead, Adrien Brody will yell to himself things like, “gotta reload!” “two magazines on back up!” and the best thing to hear while fighting dinosaurs, “Ah! I’m dry!”
Playing as Adrien Brody means that you are mostly responsible for taking down the many scary creatures which come to harm your crew. Outside of shooting Tommy Guns at V. Rexes and river monsters, you have to utilize your environment to strategically win battles, such as when you use flaming spears to set fire to grass patches on which enemies are standing. The other characters don’t contribute to much enemy damage, and Jack Black takes every opportunity to start rolling film instead of helping. At certain points in the game when groups of monsters surround our characters and everything seems hopeless, Kong jumps in to start some monkey business.
The game isn’t exclusively a first-person Adrien Brody simulator, but also a third-person monster wrestling game where everybody is Kong Fu fighting. Playing as Kong, you really feel the weight and power of being a 25-foot gorilla. During fights, Kong can also enter a rage mode to really lay the smackdown on some dinosaur butts. But since the game follows the movie, there wasn’t enough rage to help save Kong from the planes that shot him off the Empire State Building, where he fell to his death on the streets of New York City. “It was beauty killed the beast” said the man who chloroformed the beast and kidnapped it from its private island. We all know how that ends.
Or do we?
There is an alternate ending for the game that can be achieved if the player earns a total of 250,000 points (yeah, there are points in this game). If you have garnered the required amount of points and defeat enough biplanes as Kong, Adrien Brody comes in on his own biplane and shoots down the other biplanes in order to save Kong.
That’s right, Adrien Brody is a murderer! Kong then safely climbs down the Empire State Building and gets taken back to Skull Island on the same ship that brought him to New York in the first place. Adrien Brody and Naomi Watts then board a seaplane to fly by Kong’s lair where he says goodbye to you. Or at least I think that’s what he meant by “ARGHHH” while he pounded his chest in triumph.
And that’s exactly what King Kong: The Game was at the time: a triumph. Everybody I know that has played the game remembers it very fondly as the best video game to ever come from a movie. Now, if Peter Jackson can add a “Remastered” to his game’s excessively long title, a lot of Kong fans would be very happy.