"Flamboyant, foolhardy documentary filmmaker, Carl Denham, sails off to remote Skull Island to film his latest epic with leading lady, Ann Darrow. Native warriors kidnap Ann to use as a sacrifice as they summon "Kong" with the local witch doctor. But instead of devouring Ann, Kong saves her. Kong is eventually taken back to New York where he searches high and low for Ann, eventually winding up at the top of the Empire State Building, facing off against a fleet of World War I fighter planes. "

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movie trailer (apple.com)

NOTE: This Spoiler was sent in by April B.

Act I:
As music rises, we hear the sounds of the jungle.  Many different animals are shown as we hear the cacophony of noise increase.  Small apes are playing, a tiger roars, and – the sounds of the city overtake the sounds of the jungle.  We see that these animals are part of a circus-type show in New York City and they seem to be living better than many of the people around them.

Our introduction to NYC circa 1930 is one of utter despair and poverty.  For those not familiar with the aftermath of the stock market crash of the previous year, we are treated to a brief showing of families being put out on the streets, women digging through garbage to feed their children, elderly sleeping in doorways.  Over the next few minutes, we meet Ann Darrow, a vaudeville showgirl performing in a theater with more empty seats than patrons; Carl Denhem, the entrepreneur and film maker proudly displaying his most recent work on his latest film to his patrons; and his assistant, Preston (played by Colin Hanks, son of Tom), who struggles to keep up with Carl’s shenanigans.

After her performance, Ann stares dreamily at the script of a play by Jack Driscoll.  In her opinion he is the finest playwright of the day.  After a little mooning, she commiserates backstage with her cast mates and the crew, as all are hungry and haven’t been paid in a while.  We see that she is especially close to an elderly cast mate, who has apparently been taking care of her and is sympathetic to the fact that everyone in her life has let her down.  As they leave the theater, she convinces him to take her out to dinner – at a local soup kitchen.

Meanwhile, Carl’s investors send him out of the room as they discuss their opinion of the showing.  As Carl listens through the door using the old glass trick, he realizes that not only is his gravy train about to leave the station without him, the conductors are planning to steal the ingredients – the work completed to date.  By the time the investors head his way, Carl and Preston are long gone, hailing a cab in the street.  Only one is quick enough to smack the cab as they take off.  Once on their way, Carl tells Preston to get everyone together quickly, so that they can leave within the hour for their location shoot.  Preston informs Carl that their female star has quit, since Preston wasn’t able to lie to her about where the shot would take place.  Carl rattles through a list of other potential stars, but Preston reminds him that the costumes are finished and they need a size four actress to fit into them.

Fortunately for Carl, Ann has just arrived to work to discover her theater has been closed.  After her elderly friend apologizes that he intends to abandon her for Chicago, he urges her to seek the lead in Jack Driscoll’s new play.  She hunts down the director/producer, but he soundly rejects her, informing her that the part has already been cast.  After Ann persists, he takes pity on her, sort of.  He looks her up and down, informs her that she’s pretty enough she shouldn’t have to starve.  He gives her a n! ote with an address and tells her to use him as a reference, to take the job and the money, and don’t look back.

Carl is searching the streets of NYC, desperately seeking a size four female lead for his soon to depart cruise.  He stands in front of a burlesque theater watching the girls enter.  None are even remotely close to the size requirements, but his prayers are answered as Ann walks up to the door.  He watches through the glass door’s reflection as she double checks the address, hesitates, and then tosses the paper she is reading.  As she walks away, Carl follows her.  Typically, Carl gets a break when Ann is caught shoplifting an apple.  He steps between her and the shopkeeper, innocently remarking that she must have dropped this – and holds up a coin to pay for the apple.  Taking advantage of our lovely, starving heroine, he brings her to a local diner, where, as she scarfs down a plate of food she insists that she doesn’t usually accept charity from strangers and she isn’t a thief.

Carl is oblivious to her protestations.  He is too busy figuring out how to convince this beautiful woman to trust him.  He starts by telling her he has a wonderful role for her and starts describing it.  He nearly kills any trust she has in him by asking if she is a size four.  As she indignantly walks away, Carl back peddles and begins describing the amazing part he has for her in the new movie he is producing.  She isn’t buying any of it until he mentions that Jack Driscoll is polishing the script at that instant.  Ann buys on for the ride, eager to be a part of anything Jack is writing.

They arrive at the docks, where Carl introduces her to Preston and the  boat’s Captain.  Preston tells Carl in an aside that the police are on their way, since Carl’s investors are furious and looking to get their money back by taking Carl’s current footage.  Meanwhile Captain congratulates Ann for her bravery, and Carl quickly signals for Preston to take her on board.  Ann stands at the gangplank for a few seconds, seeming to sense the inevitable, but bravely steps aboard.  Meanwhile, Carl is convincing the captain to push ahead with his departure, despite the lack of proper paperwork.

Carl comes aboard and discusses the draft of the script with Jack Driscoll, who has stopped by the docks per Carl’s request to review it.  Jack is in a hurry, as he needs to get back to his true love – the theater.  He notes to Carl that film is only about the money.  The theater is what truly matters.  As Jack starts to leave, Carl offers payment to a surprised Jack.  Carl stalls Jack with several poorly written checks, eventually prompting Jack to leave without payment.  It’s still too late.  The shipped has sailed into the harbor.  Jack stands on the deck, about to jump into the water, but hesitates.  Carl wal! ks up to him and informs Jack that “if you truly loved the theater, you would have jumped.”

As the voyage gets underway, we meet the cast and crew of the film and the crew of the ship, such that it is.  We have Bruce Baxter, the B-movie star who quickly fills the walls of his shabby “stateroom” with posters of his previous work.  Jimmy, the cabin boy, Hayes the first mate, Lumpy the cook (Andy Serkis, who also gave a wonderful performance as the human aspects of Kong) and Max the cameraman round out the folks we come to know throughout the voyage.  Hayes shows Jack to the cargo hold, since there aren’t any actual cabins left.  There are cages everywhere, and Jimmy accidentally reveals to Jack the Captain’s stash of chloroform.  Jack soon learns the captain is an expert at live captures of exotic animals, just before he gets to pick which cage he wants to make his home away from home during their little trip.

At their first breakfast of the cruise, Ann enters and Carl tries to introduce her to some of the film crew.  Ann stops him as he is about to introduce a rather nerdy-attractive fellow (who does look vaguely like Adrian Brody).  She gushes on about how she doesn’t need an introduction to him.  His work is magnificent, ya-da-ya-ya.  Except, Mr. Driscoll, I can’t tell you how your photographs don’t do you justice.  From here Ann manages to unhinge her jaws and insert her foot clear to her belly as she tells him what she expected and how surprised she is at the real deal.  Meanwhile Jack Driscoll is standing behind her, fitting her (not very well put) expectations to a tee. 

A little later, Jack and Carl are working in the cargo hold on the script.  Carl reveals to Jack that they really aren’t goi! ng to Singapore after all.  Instead they are heading to a remote, unexplored island.  He whispers the name to Jack, who spells out, “S-K-U-L-L” as he types it.  Jimmy hears all, and quickly tells Hayes.  Hayes later tries to convince Carl of the terrible mistake he is making.  Hayes recounts the tale of a man found on a previous voyage drifting alone in the ocean.  The drifter provided a vague account of a terrible journey to an island with a 100-foot wall.  The man was terrified, and spooked the entire crew, but before they learned much from the drifter, he killed himself.

Things do progress rather well from here, in spite of that less than stellar beginning.  The filming aboard ship progresses, with some improv from Bruce, some butt-kissing to Bruce from Carl, and some denigration of Ann by Carl.  At one point Jack expresses his frustration with Bruce’s improvisation, but tells Ann he likes what she’s doing.  (Fans of the original should pay attention to the improv lines).  Before long, Jack and Ann are making gah-gah eyes and quite happy in each other’s company.  Jack writes her a play and after she reads it, they fall into each other’s arms.  Alas, bliss is too short, as Captain turns the boat around after discovering that he is harboring a fugitive, namely one Carl Denhem.

Act II:
Soon after turning back for NYC, things begin going awry for all except Carl.  The boat drifts into a fog and the compass stops giving directions.  After a few minutes of sailing through the fog, the boat hits an island wall and then is pounded away by surf though rocks, eventually becoming stranded.  As Captain struggles to free ship, Carl takes his film crew to the island.  Our introduction to Skull Island demonstrates it is aptly named.  There are lots of skulls and skeletons, along with many stakes protruding from the ground.  The island at first seems uninhabited, but the group is startled to see a living person (such that it is), pointing at Carl.  He approaches the native, who appears to be a teenager, offering him/her Nestlé’s chocolate.  He forces the chocolate on the child, and sees other natives.  Just as he pronounces them harmless women and children, a film crew member gasps and falls.  He has been speared straight through his belly, and as the rest of the group reacts, they are all attacked.  These natives are scary enough to make any horror director proud (as Peter Jackson should be, since that was his bread and butter before the LOTR series).  Just as things look hopeless, the group is saved by Captain and his crew.  Carl waxes poetic about dead film guy, promising to finish his movie and donate all proceeds to the guy’s family.  They all rush to the boat and try to free it from the rocks.  While they are struggling with this Ann is kidnapped by natives, though only Jack seems aware enough of what’s going on to realize it at first.  Even though they are now free of the rocks, they decide to rescue Ann before leaving.  Meanwhile, Ann is being offered as a sacrifice to Kong (natives are generally freaky, unintelligible in their chant, but Kong is distinguishable).  After an agonizingly long time, she is lowered behind the wall, tied to an elaborate bridge while the natives chant and shout to bring Kong to get his latest sacrifice.  She is picked up by Kong, screaming like a banshee as Carl arrives to look over wall.

The crew come after her, both film and ship guys, with some staying at wall as guards.  Kong tears through jungle, shaking her like his little rag doll.  They stop at Kong’s “sacrifice spot,” where there are many skeletons laying around.  She hits him just as it seems he’s about to kill her, and he lets her go.  She runs, he chases, she screams a lot more, while the rescue party bravely sets out.

After Kong catches up to Ann, he starts playing with her.  (She is after all, his new plaything).  She stands up, he knocks her down.  To him it’s a game, but she’s getting a little roughed up.  Eventually she starts to realize he’s playing, and tells him to stop.  He gets his feelings hurt and stalks off.  (One of many points where it’s obvious Kong is all male).  Eventually they kiss and make up, with Ann very cutely entertaining Kong.  Later Kong stalks off again, and Ann starts to get away, trying to find her rescuers.  (They’ve been yelling loud enough to wake the dead – or all the creatures on the island). 

Meanwhile the rescuers are walking along, but, getting tired, they stop to rest.  Jack sees a huge footprint and is not happy.  A ship’s crewman says only the abominable snowman could have made that print.  While the others are wondering over the massive footprint, Carl and Max move on in spite of the Captain’s warning to stick together.  They are filming an amazing, Jurassic Park-esque scene of herbivore dinosaurs.  The plant-eaters start to get antsy, but Carl and the cameraman assume they’re a little upset by the presence of humans.  It’s not till the creatures begin stampeding that the men decide it’s time to get out of dodge.  The rest of the guys hear the noise, feel the ground move and are already to run when Carl and Max come around the bend.  Within a little while, it’s clear that Carl and Max aren’t the cause of the stampede.  Instead, it’s a few mini t-rex type creatures that are snapping and biting at the massive herbivores.  It’s very clear immediately that this isn’t going to end well for some of the men.  Sure enough, though they manage to avoid the little meat-eaters at first, more than one becomes a grease stain under the feet of the panicked big ones.  (At this point, boys and girls pull out your pen and paper and start the body count.  Most of the little red shirts are going bye-bye before the end of this act.)  The meat-eaters get in on the act, too, and by the time the men find a safe spot to recover, four are dead and many are injured.  At one point during this, Carl starts to wax on about another deceased member of the film crew, but this time, instead of inspiring his crew, they are generally disgusted.

Bruce and two other really brave rescuers opt to head back to the boat at this point.  The rest of the men cross a fallen tree over a very steep ravine and come to a cave.  Hayes bravely walks to the mouth of the cave, tells Jimmy to be ready to run.  Indignant, Jimmy informs Hayes he isn’t a coward.  Hayes repeats the order, then as he hears something in the cave, aims his gun and widens his eyes.  He yells for the others to retreat as he empties his weapon at the thing coming toward him.  It’s Kong, who is more than a little upset at those pesky bullets coming at him.

After quickly tossing Hayes aside (another red shirt down), he starts after the men who are re-crossing the log.  He begins pounding the log.  A few more red shirts fall, the log rolls a lot, and eventually tumbles down the ravine.  Amazingly enough, Jack, Carl, the captain, Jimmy, and a few others have survived.

Meanwhile Ann is still alone, but she encounters a giant centipede, who is gobbled by a small, but nasty looking dinosaur with large, ugly teeth.  It follows her a while, and gets it’s head caught in some of the jungle area into the direction Ann is escaping.  She stops as she hears another creature savagely attacking the one after her.  She assumes it is her friend Kong and steps out, only to encounter one of the mini-rexes.  After running in fear from it, she falls to the ground.  The creature sniffs around for a moment or two, and ru! ns off.  Ann is relieved, thinking the little rex is blind.

She sighed too soon – and too loudly.  The full-size rex, who has been resting next to her hiding place, perks up and moves in for the kill.  Fortunately for Ann, Kong has finally realized his new toy is about to become lunch for something else and steps in to protect his property.  After an incredibly long (and I do mean looooong) fight between three of the big rexes, a wounded, but proud Kong beats his chest and turns his attentions back to Ann.

The men who fell to the bottom of ravine find themselves surrounded by giant insects.  More red shirts bite the big one.  Well, it’s more like the big ones bite them.  Just to note, this is quite an ugly scene, one Jackson returned to his horror roots to come up with. Even the guys in our little group were grossed out by this one.  They could deal with centipedes and dinosaurs, but this was really disgusting – right up there with the natives.  This is a nice time for a mid-movie restroom break if you are squeamish.  Trust me.

While the guys are fighting the gigantic bugs, Ann and Kong watch a lovely sunset together.  (It’s a shame you know how this romance will end, cause it is rather sweet).  She teaches him sign language for beautiful, then trustingly steps into his paw for a little well-earned R-and-R.

After staving off the bugs, the remaining men rescue Bruce and his two compatriots.  At this point, they all decide to head back for ship except for Jack.  Ann is alive and he must save her, even if he goes alone.  Captain watches him go, saying Ann is already dead.  Carl says Ann is alive, Jack will save her, and that by doing so will bring Kong right into their hands.  Foolish, foolish little man.

Jack does find Ann, after disturbing a cave full of giant bats.  The bats follow him and wait as he wakes a sleeping Ann while trying to avoid waking a peaceful-looking, though loudly snoring Kong.  She reaches out her hand to Jack, but Kong wakens, quite unhappy with Jack.  The bats attack just as Jack is about to face the wrath of Kong.  Jack and Ann use the attack that is distracting Kong to slip down a vine, but Kong overcomes the bats long enough to pull the vine up.  Just as Jack and Ann reach Kong, the bats seize the vine from his grip and fly off with them.  Jack and Ann jump from the vine when the bats fly low to the water.  They swim to shore and run for their lives, with Kong hot on their heels.  They come to the place where Ann was sacrificed.  The bridge is still there, but isn’t quite to the ground any longer.  They scr! eam for the crew on the other side of the wall to lower the bridge.  Jack thinks the crew left without them as Carl stands on the other side of the wall, holding his hand up.  Carl hears Kong approaching and wants the bridge lowered at the right moment.  Preston finally gets up the nerve to stand up to Carl.  He whacks away at the ties to the bridge, lowering it and managing to snap the ties back into his face (this will leave quite a rakish scar for him in Act III).

Ann and Jack race across the bridge with an angry Kong right behind them.  They get to the other side to discover the trap set out for Kong.  Ann is furious and tries to stop them from going through with it.  Carl and the Captain order Jack to take Ann to the boat.  He starts that way, with Ann kicking and screaming.  Kong leaps the wall and is ensnared by ropes, hit with chloroform, and has rocks thrown at him.  He seems defeated until he sees Ann struggling against Jack as he leads her away.  Kong breaks free, and the men decide that perhaps they should just, um, run like hell.

Everyone gets to the little row boats to head back to the ship.  Kong is having none of that.  He gets the last boat leaving the island (with Carl, Jimmy, and Jack), and tosses it around like his bathtub toy.  Bye-bye to more red shirts.  Carl, Jimmy, and Jack all swim safely away.  Kong is headed to the second boat for Ann and Captain is ready to fire a massive-looking gun, but Ann is screaming for him to stop.  Carl joins her urgings just before he throws a jug of chloroform that breaks on Kong’s nose.  After a few heartbreaking moments and puppy d! og eyes between Kong and Ann, Kong falls at Carl’s feet.  Ann is devastated, but Carl stands proudly over Kong as he describes his plans upon his triumphant return to NYC.  We fade out, and are left to wonder (a) how did they get Kong back to the ship with that one dinky row boat and (b) why couldn’t we see the return trip.  That had to be interesting.

Act III:
Carl is strutting around opening night of his new Broadway act featur! ing Kong.  Ann is backstage in a lovely white dress, preparing for her entrance.  Apparently all has been forgiven as the previously irate investors are now fawning over Carl with the press in attendance.  After a few minutes of this, we’re ready for the good stuff.

Meanwhile Jack is at the opening of his new play – the one he wrote for Ann while on board the ship.  Sadly she isn’t starring in it, and to him, the real lead can’t hold a candle to Ann.  As Jack mouths the lines along with the lead, he realizes what a fool he has been and rushes out to find Ann.

Back at the Kong extravaganza, Carl has taken center stage to tell the amazing story of Ann’s rescue and the capture of Kong.  He’s on stage with Kong behind him, chained, Carl assures them, with the strongest steel ever made.  He wows the audience with tales of Ann’s rescuer’s bravery.  As Jack walks down the aisle of the theater, Carl tells the audience that as a special treat, the man who so bravely rescued Ann has joined them.  Jack prepares to be spotlighted, but alas – Bruce steps on stage, hamming it up and gladly taking credit for Jack’s work.  Dancers dressed as primitive natives (but no where near as scary as the real ones) come on stage to join Carl and Bruce.  Carl tells the audience that Bruce will once again bravely rescue Ann from the terrifying beast.  The floor opens and an altar is raised, with a perfectly coifed blonde in a white dress tied to it.  Kong finally looks alive and gets excite as he sees the screaming actress, only to be incredibly angry when the woman isn’t really Ann.

Preston (with the aforementioned dashing scar) explains to Jack that Ann refused Carl’s offer to be part of the show, in spite of Carl’s large salary offers.  Briefly we see Ann dancing as part of the chorus in a different show on Broadway.  As we return to the Kong theater, Jack recognizes that Kong is getting really angry with the flashbulbs from the press and the noise from the excited audience.  When Kong recognizes Jack, Jack begins warning the audience around him to leave the area as quietly as possible.  One rather clueless well-dressed man tells Jack to buy his own seat, but many of the patrons are catching on that all is not well.  Bruce remains true to form and as he realizes Kong is getting violent, runs through the pack of reporters at the side of the stage.  The theater is about half empty when Kong breaks completely free and begins coming after Jack.  A few of the more slow-witted/moving patrons are tossed aside or stepped on by Kong in his pursuit.  Eventually Kong makes it to the street and his rampage through the city begins.  Ann is further down Broadway, but hears Kong’s roar and the accompanying police and military activity.  She begins to run in that direction.  Jack hails a cab, which the driver happily leaves to Jack.  Jack gets Kong’s attention and drives away.  Kong chases him, and eventually manages to pick up the cab and crumple it.  Jack is unconscious and Kong loses interest as he spots Ann walking up to him.  She st! eps in his paw and they head to central park, where for a few touching minutes Kong slides around on the ice-pond while Ann hangs on in his paw as if she were on a carnival ride. 

Like all wonderful evenings, this one was too short, as a trigger happy military officer blows a hole in the middle of the ice and sends Kong running.  He eventually spots the Empire State Building and begins scaling it while still cradling Ann in one paw.  The get near the top and Kong stops.  He and Ann watch the sunrise together and he moves his paw to his chest to let Ann know how beautiful the sight is to him.  She is moved to tears, but again, those darned military guys interrupted with their buzzing little bi-planes.

We have many long minutes of shooting at Kong, who seems impervious to it all.  Eventually Ann climbs to the top, where Kong has been, and she bravely stands in front of Kong as the planes pass, desperately trying to stop them.  They pass by without firing and she thinks it’s over.  Sadly, however, Kong is not as immune to bullets as we thought.  He is leaning heavily against the building and we see that he is weakening.  Ann begins crying as Kong’s eyes flutter and it looks like he is fading.  There is still hope – until a hail of bullets hits him in the back.  It is too much, and Kong’s grip on the building fails.  He lets go with a last lingering look at Ann and falls to the street below.

Jack wakes up and heads that way during the bi-plane action, breaking past the security barriers and shoving a policeman out of the elevator in his desperation to save Ann.  Just as Kong falls, he arrives in time to hold her and pick up the pieces.

On the street below, a mob has formed to gawk at Kong’s lifeless body.  Photographers are snapping pictures, security guys are hamming it up, and everyone is trying to get a touch of the massive body.  As a few of the crustier officers begin restoring order, a couple of the observers begin wondering at Kong’s poor decision to scale the Empire State Building.  One notes that it was a suicidal choice, to which the other replies Kong was just a dumb animal who was brought down by his own inability to think.  As they walk away, Carl makes his way to stand at Kong’s feet and overhears.  He pauses and shakes his head sadly.  “That wasn’t it.  Twas beauty that brought down the beast.”

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