First off, let me state that I have never seen the original version, other than a few clips here and there, so I had no basis for comparison. However, I have seen Peter Jackson's other mega-blockbusters (they need no introduction), and I was prepared to be blown away.
Well, I was, in an "Episode 1" sort of way. Lots of action, LOTS AND LOTS of CGI, one or two memorable moments, but not very good acting, and since everybody pretty much knew how the story ends (big ape fall down, go BOOM!), the first half of the movie just seems like prologue.
Don't get the wrong idea. This movie is better than most movies out there, and definitley better than that 1976 abomination. It's just that I got the impression that Peter Jackson gave the Lord of the Rings trilogy everything he had, and he just didn't work as hard on Kong. Let's face it; he set the bar pretty high, so he would be hard pressed to meet or exceed that level of excellence.
The pacing of the movie was also a bit off. There were quite a few subplots that really bogged it down, and some of the action scenes were gratuitous at best. This was a three hour movie that could have easily been trimmed to two hours, and maybe even a little less.
However, that two hour film would be visually stunning. Accepting the fact that most (if not all) of the creatures on Skull Island do not exist in reality and probably couldn't be created with models, the CG characters were breathtaking, and more than a little creepy (you'll know what I mean when you see it). If anything, the use of computer graphics may have been a little overdone (this may allusion to Ep 1), bordering on the level seen in the Mummy movies. They never looked cartoonish, and there were only a few times that they looked less than smooth.
The acting was not bad. Jack Black was fantastic, possibly Oscar caliber. His character is manipulative, conniving, lying, greedy, and yet retains some semblance of integrity and empathy. That, and Jack's facial expression, particularly his eyes, is nearly as expressive as another actor named Jack. Naomi Watts gave a good performance, but also a somewhat forgettable one. The actress is just unknown enough that you can't say if she was perfectly cast or miscast (Hell, I had to look at IMDB to find out what other movies she's been in). Adrain Brody just never struck me as a leading man, and still doesn't. How he got such a prime role (and how he managed to get away with that liplock on Halle Berry at the 2002 Oscars) is beyond me.
MAybe this film is like Titanic. I wasn't thrilled with it the first time I saw it, but by the second or third viewing, I warmed up to it. For now, I can say that the movie was well worth the price of my ticket.