With the release of my 4th of July Jaws special, I have made the decision to use this month to focus on creature features! This week I will be looking at the remake of the godfather of all creature features. This is my Sunday with… “King Kong”.
King Kong (2005)
Release Date: December 14, 2005
Run Time: 188 minutes
Starring: Naomi Watts
Director: Peter Jackson
“There is still some mystery left in this world, and we can all have a piece of it for the price of an admission ticket.”-Preston
King Kong is the sprawling adventure of a group of film makers and actors traveling to create a movie and instead they encounter the eighth wonder of the world. Set in 1933, in the midst of the great depression, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is approached by film maker Carl Denham (Jack Black) to star in his newest film which was being written by Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody). The cast and crew begin their boat voyage and encounter heavy fog that eventually grounds their ship on “Skull Island”. As the crew searches and films the island they are attacked by the natives. After a scuffle and the head native mentioning something named Kong, the crew escapes back to the ship. Now in a frantic panic to get the ship moving and away from the island, the cast and crew begin dumping everything off the ship. However, while distracted the natives infiltrate the ship and kidnap Ms. Darrow and return her to the island to be sacrificed to Kong. Meanwhile, Jack notices Ann’s absence and takes a large group to get her back. When they finally arrive they see the huge wall separating the natives from the jungle. As the men prepare to rescue Ann they have no idea of the many ancient dangers that lie behind the wall of Skull Island, as well as what this “Kong” could be.
King Kong was a remake of the 1933 original released by RKO pictures. As far as remake’s are concerned the 2005 version of King Kong is closest to the original. It is this fact that both helped, and in my opinion, harmed the movie. When I say it harmed the 2005 version, I mean it was essentially the same film as the original 1933 classic and thus adds little to the mythos of the story. It was not as original as the 1933 film and thus didn’t transcend the classic. Yet, the remake’s closeness to the original was also very beneficial, as we got to see a truly terrifying Kong, thanks to the vision of Peter Jackson and his visuals, and effects. We no longer had the Kong of the original (which inspired the work of Ray Harryhausen) and now instead had a humongous and terrifying “eighth wonder of the world”.
This film was originally supposed to be filmed in 1997, and released in 1998, however the studios fear that it would be lost among films like Godzilla and Mighty Joe Young caused Universal to put the project on hold.
Kong was penned for Universal back in 1996. The studio had enjoyed immense success three years earlier with Jurassic Park; it had also been trying to remake The Mummy for some time. Not long after Jackson and Walsh’s script was shelved, Universal produced The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and The Mummy (1999). –IGN
In my opinion that was in the best interest of everyone involved as Peter Jackson went on to win a million awards for his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and technology had time to evolve, to give us the perfect look of the King Kong and Skull Island. Aside from technology, the halting and then restarting of the King Kong project enabled Jackson to pen a new script from the original 1996 version, which after seeing some of the details, would have been a train wreck. (Ann Darrow was a world explorer instead of an endearing down on her luck actress.)
Weta workshop and Weta digital joined the production, as well as much of Jackson’s crew from the LOTR trilogy. Christian Rivers was charged with heading the Kong graphics and did a truly stellar job. Before it was all finished the films budget rose to $207 million, which at the time made it the most expensive film ever, however in the end it all paid off as the film would make $550 million, which would land it as the fourth highest grossing movie in Universal’s history.
At the heart of the King Kong story there are many underlying themes that are directed at us as a society. The character of Carl Denham is supposed to be representative of the dangers of greed. He endangers many people in order to make a blockbuster film that will get him rich. Numerous people die under his watch and because of his actions and he shows little to no remorse. After finding that Kong can be a very marketable attraction he drugs the beast and brings him to a new environment that terrifies him. Denham knows how dangerous Kong can be and throws all of that worry away as he sets him up on a stage in New York City! Destruction and death all are thrust onto his shoulders all because of his greed. We also see the fear of the unknown. Upon first sight who wouldn’t be terrified of a gigantic gorilla? However we see that Ann Darrow learns to understand and even love Kong; the relationship between woman and beast blossom, as opposed to those who are firing at him. However, I cannot blame those who were trying to defend themselves against Kong as I don’t think anyone would think in that instance he was scared. Self-preservation is a hell of a thing!
King Kong had a big ensemble cast that gave us amazing performances by Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, and Colin Hanks. Jack Black deserves extra praise as he was amazing as Carl Denham. He brought the right amount of greed, determination, and humor into the role as he perfectly mixed a circus front man with inspiration from Orson Wells. Andy Serkis once again amazes as Kong and is one of, if not the best, motion capture actors in the world as his resume is filled with hits, and this was no different. He studied the movements of gorillas in zoos’ and the wild and perfectly brought that to the big screen. The soundtrack was started by Howard Shore and was completed by James Newton Howard. Interestingly, the 2005 Coldplay song “Fix You” was used during the marketing of the film and during the t.v. spots.
King Kong opened to positive reviews, and as mentioned before, has since become the fourth highest grossing film in Universal’s history. As with most Jackson films, it won three academy awards and ended up on many top ten lists of 2005. In 2008 Empire magazine released their top 500 movies of all time, and this film ranked at number 450.
King Kong is a fresh look at the original. The graphics and cast are superb and the story is still a classic. This was a labor of love for Peter Jackson and that is all evident as he gives each character and set the love and grandeur it deserves. Keep in mind that this is a three hour journey so make sure you have the time to sit through this one as King Kong and Skull Island are well worth the visit.