I'll even say he surpassed the original because there was a lot more depth to the characters, particularly Ann Darrow and you can understand why she chooses to go to the beast willingly and how she understands him. Kong is a noble lonely creature, the last of his race (his ancestor's bones scattered near his cave) and finds new meaning to his life in protecting Ann. And what better way to impress a girl than kill 3 T Rexes on a first date? Kong isn't just a special effect, Jackson has really created a depth and a soul to him and you feel for him at the inevitable end even though you know what is coming.
And i loved so many little touches throughout the movie.... like when Denham is trying to find a replacement actress and tosses off a remark about "Fay, but she's working for Cooper for RKO", or the crate in the ship's hold labeled "Sumatran Rat Monkey" (a reference to Jackson's zombie comedy "Brain Dead" a/k/a "Dead Alive" that completely cracked me up & prolly made most of the audience wonder what the hell I was laughing at), or the Broadway versions of the natives wearing EXACTLY the costumes the Skull Islanders wore in the 1933 version that reminds you how racist those coconut bras were. The casting is great, I especially loved Jack Black as Denham, the man has such a manic intensity and great eyes, he made Denham more ruthless and amoral than the original dared.
Sheer brilliance, my favorite movie of the year.
Also caught "Walk the Line" the other day, a much more low key movie but also very good and highly recommended biography of Johnny Cash, still amazed that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did their own singing and really pulled it off.
Gotta see Narnia & Brokeback Mountain next, maybe Memoirs of a Giesha as the cast for that is amazing.
(Cool merch from WETA, too bad is is like $500!)