King Kong

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A break from the politics, to talk about what could be the biggest movie of the year.

Before he won a raft of Oscars for “The Lord of the Rings,” before he stunned the art-house crowd with the 1994 drama “Heavenly Creatures,” Peter Jackson, New Zealand’s favorite son, directed a series of demented, low-budget horror films that seemed designed to make people barf. Repeatedly. For Jackson, one of the biggest perks of re-creating “Kong,” which turned him into a filmmaker for life at the age of 9, was the chance to do his own spider-pit sceneâ€â€?and this time show it to the world. He even came up with a way to make the scene relevant: he tossed his two leading men, played by Jack Black and Adrien Brody, into the pit. “I didn’t want to be tempted to cut it if the movie got too long,” he says. “This way, I couldn’t cut it.” Jackson’s take on the scene is deliciously icky, though it might not make anyone retch. Then again, there is this one part where a guy gets his head bitten off by an eight-foot slug. “Well,” says Jackson, “he doesn’t so much get it bitten off. It’s more like his head gets swallowed and digested by acidic juices and it slowly dissolves into a sort of creamy pulp.”

Now is probably a good time to mention that Jackson’s epic, $207 million remake of “King Kong,” is a surprisingly tender, even heartbreaking, film. Like the original, it’s a tragic tale of beauty and the beast. Unlike the original, which was 100 minutes long, Jackson’s version is a Kong-size three hours. “A few people have already asked me why we’re taking twice as long to tell essentially the same story,” says the director. “And I don’t really know. We’ve been asking that ourselves. I’m going to have to come up with a better answer.” May we cut in? The best answerâ€â€?the only answer, reallyâ€â€?is the movie itself. Earlier this month, Jackson invited NEWSWEEK to New Zealand for an exclusive first look at the finished (OK, nearly finished) product, and he proved once again that he might be the only guy whose films are worth getting on a plane and flying halfway around the planet to see. If the 44-year-old Kiwi felt any pressure over following up “The Lord of the Rings,” you won’t find a hint of it on screen. Some critics will complain that the film’s length is an act of Oscar-drunk hubris, but while “Kong” may be indulgent, it’s not pretentious. And it’s certainly never dull. Jackson has honored his favorite film in the best possible way: by recapturing its heart-pounding, escapist glee.

I was a huge fan of the LOTR series. In fact, I have all of the extended versions on DVD and watched the first two extended versions back to back before I went to go see the third in the theatres on opening day.

Am I a geek? You could say that.

And personally, I think this newest King Kong will be bigger than the titular character himself. Why? Because I know Jackson has the moxie to pull off an amazing remake that could very well pose the question, “Which is better: the original or the Peter Jackon version?”

My prediction? The remake.

I hope I’m right.