giant ape on skull Island: King Kong
King Kong is a 2005 epic adventure monster film co-written, produced, and directed by Peter Jackson. It is the eighth entry in the
King Kong franchise and the second remake of the 1933 film of the same title, following the 1976 film. The film stars Andy Serkis, Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Adrien Brody. Set in 1933, it follows the story of an ambitious filmmaker who coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to mysterious Skull Island. There they encounter prehistoric creatures and a legendary giant gorilla known as Kong, whom they capture and take to New York City.
Development began in early 1995, when Universal Pictures approached Jackson to direct the remake of the original 1933 film. The project stalled in early 1997, as several ape and giant monster-related films were under production at the time and Jackson planned to direct The Lord of the Rings film series. As the first two films in the Rings trilogy became commercially successful, Universal went back to Jackson in early 2003, expressing interest in restarting development on the project, to which Jackson eventually agreed. Filming for
King Kong took place in New Zealand from September 2004 to March 2005. It is currently one of the most expensive films ever produced as its budget climbed from an initial $150 million to a then-record-breaking $207 million.
King Kong premiered at New York City on December 5, 2005, and was theatrically released in Germany and United States on December 14. The film garnered critical acclaim, and eventually appeared in several top ten lists for 2005; it was praised for the special effects, performances, sense of spectacle and comparison to the 1933 original, though some criticisms were raised over its 3-hour run time. It was a commercial success, grossing over $562.9 million and became the fourth-highest-grossing film in Universal Pictures history at that time and the fifth-highest-grossing film of 2005. It also generated $100 million in DVD sales upon its home video release in March 2006. It won three Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. A tie-in video game was released alongside the film, which also became a commercial and critical success.
A sequel, Skull Island, entered development in 2013, with Jackson producing and Adam Wingard set to direct. The project was abandoned after
Bros. Pictures acquired the rights and ultimately rebooted the franchise with the 2017 film Kong: Skull Island as part of Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse. Wingard later directed the 2021 film Godzilla vs. Kong.
Park, dinosaur movie with Richard
Attenborough as John Hammond, to Sam Neil as Alan Grant:
"It's right up your alley."
In 1933, during the Great Depression, struggling New York City vaudeville performer Ann Darrow is hired by financially troubled filmmaker Carl Denham to star in a film with actor Bruce Baxter. Ann is hesitant to join the picture until she learns her favorite playwright, Jack Driscoll, is the screenwriter. Filming takes place on the SS Venture, under Captain Englehorn, and under Carl's pretense it will be sailing to Singapore. In truth, Carl intends to film the mysterious Skull Island. Captain Englehorn reconsiders the voyage, prompted by his crew's speculation of trouble ahead. During the voyage, Ann and Jack fall in love.
The Venture receives a radio message informing Englehorn there is a warrant for Carl's arrest due to his defiance of the studio's orders to cease production, and instructing Englehorn to divert to Rangoon, but the ship becomes lost in fog and runs aground on Skull Island. Carl and his film crew, including cameraman Herb, assistant Preston, actor Bruce Baxter, and boom operator Mike, explore the island and are attacked by natives who kill Mike and a crewman. Englehorn rescues the film crew, but as they prepare to leave, a native sneaks onto the ship and abducts Ann. The natives offer Ann as a sacrifice to Kong, a 25-foot-tall (7.6 m) ape. Jack notices Ann's disappearance, and the crew returns to the island, but Kong flees with Ann into the jungle. Carl catches a glimpse of Kong and becomes determined to film him.
Ann wins Kong over with her juggling and dancing skills and begins to grasp his intelligence and capacity for emotion. Englehorn organizes a rescue party, led by his first mate Hayes and Jack, and accompanied by Carl, Herb, Baxter and Preston. The party gets caught between a herd of Brontosaurus baxteri and a pack of Utahraptor-like Venatosaurus saevidicus hunting them, with Herb and several other men killed in the resulting stampede. Baxter and others return to the ship.
The remaining party members continue through the jungle when Kong attacks, making them fall into a ravine resulting in the deaths of Hayes and most of the rescue party, as well as Carl losing his camera. Kong rescues Ann from three Tyrannosaurus-like Vastatosaurus rex, bringing her to his den in the mountains. The remaining rescue party are attacked by giant insects in the ravine, resulting in the death of two more crew members, but Preston, Carl, Jack, and Hayes' apprentice Jimmy are rescued by Baxter and Englehorn. Jack searches for Ann alone, while Carl decides to capture Kong. Jack finds Kong's lair and accidentally awakens him, but escapes with Ann. They arrive at the wall with Kong pursuing them. As Ann begs the crew not to harm him, Kong kills several sailors, but is subdued when Carl knocks him out with chloroform.
In New York City that winter, Carl presents "Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World" on Broadway, starring Baxter and an imprisoned Kong. Ann, who refused to take part in the performance, is played by an anonymous chorus girl. Agitated by the chorus girl not being Ann and flashes from cameras, Kong breaks free from the chains and wrecks the theater, bursting out and through it and rampages through the streets of New York in search of Ann, and chases Jack before encountering her again. The U.S. Army attacks, and Kong tries getting Ann and himself to safety by climbing to the top of the Empire State Building.
Six Navy biplanes arrive, which Kong fights, downing three of them, but is mortally wounded from the planes' gunfire and falls. As Jack reaches the top of the building to comfort and embrace Ann, civilians, policemen, and soldiers gather around the beast's corpse in the street, one bystander commenting the airplanes got him. Carl makes his way through the crowd, takes one last look at Kong and says, "It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.", before he walks away.
PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
Peter Jackson was nine years old when he first saw the 1933 film, and was in tears in front of the TV when Kong was shot and fell off the Empire State Building. At age 12, he attempted to recreate the film using his parents' Super 8 mm film camera and a model of Kong made of wire and rubber with his mother's fur coat for the hair, but eventually gave up on the project. King Kong eventually became his favorite film and was the primary inspiration for his decision to become a filmmaker as a teenager. He read books about the making of King Kong and collected memorabilia, as well as articles from Famous Monsters of Filmland. Jackson paid tribute to the 1933 film by including Skull Island as the origin of the zombie plague in his 1992 film Braindead.
During the filming of Jackson's 1996 film The Frighteners, Universal Pictures was impressed with Jackson's dailies and early visual effects footage. The studio was adamant to work with Jackson on his next
project and, in late 1995, offered him the chance to direct a remake of the 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon. He turned down the offer, but Universal became aware of Jackson's obsession with King Kong and subsequently offered him the opportunity to direct that remake. The studio did not have to worry about lawsuits concerning the film rights from RKO Pictures (the studio behind the 1933 film) because the King Kong character is held in the public domain. Jackson initially turned down the King Kong offer, but he "quickly became disturbed by the fact that someone else would take it over," Jackson continued, "and make it into a terrible film; that haunted me and I eventually said yes to Universal."
At the same time, Jackson was working with Harvey Weinstein and Miramax Films to purchase the film rights of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, while 20th Century Fox was trying to hire him for the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes. Jackson turned down Planet of the Apes and because Weinstein was taking longer than expected to buy The Lord of the Rings rights, Jackson decided to move forward on King Kong. Weinstein was furious, and, as a result, Jackson proposed a deal between Universal and Miramax that the two studios would equally finance King Kong with Jackson's production company WingNut Films. Universal would receive distribution rights in the United States, while Miramax would cover foreign territories. Jackson was also warranted the right of final cut privilege, a percentage of the gross profits, as well as artistic control;
Universal allowed all filming and visual effects to be handled entirely in New Zealand. The deal was settled in April 1996, and Jackson, along with wife Fran Walsh, began working on the King Kong script. In the original draft, Ann was the daughter of famed English archaeologist Lord Linwood Darrow exploring ancient ruins in Sumatra. They would come into conflict with Denham during his filming, and they would uncover a hidden Kong statue and the map of Skull Island. This would indicate that the island natives were the last remnants of a cult religion that had once thrived on Asia's mainland. Instead of a playwright, Jack was the first mate and an ex-World War I fighter pilot still struggling with the loss of his best friend, who had been killed in battle during a
World War I prologue. The camera-man Herb is the only supporting character in the original draft who made it to the final version. The fight between Kong and the three V. rex also changed from the original draft. In the draft, Ann is actually caught in the V. rex's jaws, where she becomes wedged, and slashed by the teeth; after the fight, Kong gets her out but she is suffering from a fever, from which she then recovers.
Universal approved of the script with Robert Zemeckis as executive producer, and pre-production for King Kong commenced. The plan was to begin filming sometime in 1997 for a summer 1998 release date. Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, under the supervision of Richard Taylor and Christian Rivers, began work on early visual effects tests, specifically the complex task of building a CGI version of New York City circa 1933. Jackson and Walsh progressed with a second draft script, sets were being designed and location scouting commenced in Sumatra and New Zealand. In late 1996, Jackson flew to production of the 1997 film Titanic in Mexico to discuss the part of Ann Darrow with Kate Winslet, with whom he previously worked with on his 1994 film Heavenly Creatures. Minnie Driver was also being reportedly considered. Jackson's choices for Jack Driscoll and Carl Denham included George Clooney and Robert De Niro. However, development for King Kong was stalled in January 1997 when Universal became concerned over the upcoming release of the 1998 film
Godzilla, as well as other ape-related remakes with the 1998 film Mighty Joe Young and the 2001 film Planet of the Apes. Universal abandoned King Kong in February 1997 after Weta Workshop and Weta Digital had already designed six months' worth of pre-production. Jackson then decided to start work on The Lord of the Rings film series.
With the financial and critical success of the 2001 film The Fellowship of the Ring and the 2002 film The Two Towers, Universal approached Jackson in early 2003, during the post-production of The Return of the King, concerning his interest in restarting development on King Kong. In March 2003, Universal set a target December 2005 release date and Jackson and Walsh brought The Lord of the Rings co-writer Philippa Boyens on to help rewrite their 1996 script. Jackson offered New Line Cinema the opportunity to co-finance with Universal, but they declined. Universal and Jackson originally projected a $150 million budget, which eventually rose to $175 million. Jackson made a deal with Universal whereby he would be paid a $20 million salary against 20% of the box office gross for directing, producing and co-writing. He shared that fee with co-writers Walsh (which also covered her producing credit) and Boyens. However, if King Kong were to go over its $175 million budget, the penalties would be covered by Jackson.
Immediately after the completion of The Return of the King, Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, supervised by Taylor, Rivers, and Joe Letteri, started pre-production on King Kong. Jackson brought back most of the crew he had on The Lord of the Rings series, including cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, production designer Grant Major, art directors Simon Bright and Dan Hennah, conceptual designer Alan Lee, and editor Jamie Selkirk. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens began to write a new script in late October 2003. Jackson acknowledged that he was highly unsatisfied with the original 1996 script. "That was actually just Fran and Peter very hurriedly getting something down on paper", Boyens explained. "It was more one of many possible ways the story could go." The writers chose to base the new screenplay on the 1933 film rather than the 1996 script. They also included scenes from James Ashmore Creelman's screenplay that were either abandoned or omitted during production of the original film. In the scene where Kong shakes the surviving sailors pursuing Ann and himself from a log into the ravine, for example, directors Merian Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack originally intended to depict giant spiders emerging from the rock to devour their bodies. This was cut from the original release print, and remains known to Kong fans only via a rare still that appeared in Famous Monsters of Filmland. Jackson included this scene and elaborated upon it. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens also cited Delos W. Lovelace's 1932 novelisation of King Kong as inspiration, which included the character Lumpy (Andy Serkis). To make the relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong plausible, the writers studied hours of gorilla footage. Jackson also optioned Early Havoc, a memoir written by vaudeville performer June Havoc to help Walsh and Boyens flesh out Ann Darrow's characterisation. Carl Denham was intentionally modeled after and inspired by Orson Welles. Their new draft was finished in February 2004.
Watts, Black, and Brody were the first choices for their respective roles with no other actors considered. In preparation for her role, Watts met with the original Ann
Darrow, Fay Wray. Jackson wanted Wray to make a cameo appearance and say the final line of dialogue, but she died during pre-production at 96 years old. Black was cast as Carl Denham based on his performance in the 2000 film High Fidelity, which had impressed Jackson. For inspiration, Black studied P. T. Barnum and Orson
Welles. "I didn't study [Welles] move for move. It was just to capture the spirit. Very reckless guy. I had tapes of him drunk off his ass." The native extras on Skull Island were portrayed by a mix of Asian, African, Maori and Polynesian actors sprayed with dark makeup to achieve a consistent pigmentation.
- Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, a struggling vaudeville actress who is desperate for work. Carl first meets her when she tries to steal an apple from a fruit stand. Further into the voyage, she falls in love with Jack and forms a special relationship with Kong.
- Andy Serkis as Kong (motion capture), a 25-foot (7.6 m) tall prehistoric ape who resembles a mountain gorilla and is around 100–150 years old. He is the last of his species, Megaprimatus kong. and the possible descendant of both the Chororapithecus and the Gigantopithecus.
- Serkis also plays Lumpy, the ship's cook, barber, and surgeon. A brave sailor, he warns Denham about rumors he has heard about Skull Island and Kong.
- Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll, a screenwriter who falls in love with Ann. He unwittingly becomes part of the voyage when, while delivering a script to Denham, he is deliberately delayed by the latter before he can get off the Venture. He is the only member of the crew who agrees with Ann that Kong should be left alone.
- Jack Black as Carl Denham, a film director who obtained the map to Skull Island. Due to his debts, Carl starts to lose his moral compass and obsesses over his film to the point that he disregards safety.
- Thomas Kretschmann as Captain Englehorn, the German captain of the Venture. Englehorn shows a dislike for Denham, presumably because of his obsessive nature.
- Colin Hanks as Preston, Denham's neurotic but honest personal assistant.
- Jamie Bell as Jimmy, a naive teenager who was found on the Venture, wild and abandoned.
- Evan Parke as Benjamin "Ben" Hayes, Englehorn's first mate and a mentor to Jimmy, who leads Ann's rescue mission because of his army training and combat experience gained during World War I.
- Lobo Chan as Choy, Lumpy's best friend and a janitor on the Venture.
- Kyle Chandler as Bruce Baxter, an actor who specializes in adventure films. He abandons Ann's rescue mission but brings Englehorn to rescue the search party from the insect pit, and is given credit for rescuing Ann during the Broadway display of Kong.
- John Sumner as Herb, Denham's loyal cameraman.
- Craig Hall as Mike, Denham's soundman for the journey.
- William Johnson as Manny, an elderly vaudevillian actor and colleague of Darrow.
- Mark Hadlow as Harry, a struggling vaudevillian actor.
- Jed Brophy and Todd Rippon appeared in the film as crew members.
In addition, director Jackson appears with makeup artist Rick Baker as the pilot and gunner on the airplane that kills the title character, his children appear as New York children, The Lord of the Rings co-producer Rick Porras and The Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont appear as a gunners in the other airplanes, and Bob Burns and his wife appear as New York bystanders. Frequent Jackson collaborator Howard Shore makes a cameo appearance as the conductor of the New York theater from where Kong escapes. Shore was initially set to compose for the film before his exit.
King-Kong style giant gates as the tour entry to Jurassic
Principal photography started on September 6, 2004, at Camperdown Studios in Miramar, New Zealand. Camperdown housed the native village and the Great Wall, while the streets of New York City were constructed on its backlot and at Gracefield in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. The majority of the SS Venture scenes were shot aboard a full-scale deck constructed in the parking lot at Camperdown Studio and then were backed with a green screen, with the ocean digitally added in post. Scenes set in the Broadway theater from which King Kong makes his escape were filmed in Wellington's Opera House and at the Auckland Civic Theatre. Filming also took place at Stone Street Studios, where a new sound stage was constructed to accommodate one of the sets. Over the course of filming the budget went from $175 million to $207 million over additional visual effects work needed, and Jackson extending the film's running time by thirty minutes. Jackson covered the $32 million surplus himself and finished filming in March 2005.
The film's budget climbed from an initial US$150 million to a then-record-breaking $207 million and received a subsidy of $34 million from New Zealand, making it at one point the most expensive film yet made. Universal only agreed to such an outlay after seeing a screening of the unfinished film, to which executives responded enthusiastically. Marketing and promotion costs were an estimated $60 million. The film's length also grew; originally set to be 135 minutes, it soon grew to 200, prompting Universal executives to fly to New Zealand to view a rough cut, but they liked it so their concerns were addressed.
Other difficulties included Peter Jackson's decision to change composers from Howard Shore to James Newton Howard seven weeks before the film opened.
Jackson saw King Kong as opportunity for technical innovations in motion capture, commissioning Christian Rivers of Weta Digital to supervise all aspects of Kong's performance. Jackson decided early on that he did not want Kong to behave like a
human, and so he and his team studied hours of gorilla footage. Serkis was cast in the title role in April 2003 and prepared himself by working with gorillas at the London Zoo. He then traveled to Rwanda, observing the actions and behaviors of gorillas in the wild. Rivers explained that the detailed facial performance capture with Serkis was accomplished because of the similarities between human and gorilla faces. "Gorillas have such a similar looking set of eyes and brows, you can look at those expressions and transpose your own interpretation onto them." Photos of silverback gorillas were also superimposed on Kong's image in the early stages of animation. Serkis had to go through two hours of motion capture makeup every day, having 135 small markers attached to different spots on his face. Following principal photography, Serkis had to spend an additional two months on a motion capture stage, miming Kong's movements for the film's digital animators.
Apart from Kong, Skull Island is inhabited by dinosaurs and other large fauna. Inspired by Dougal Dixon's works, the designers imagined what 65 million years or more of isolated evolution might have done to dinosaurs and the other creatures.
effects animatronic Velociraptor robot, just like King Kong,
advancing the making of movies.
In North America, King Kong grossed $9,755,745 during its Wednesday opening and $50,130,145 over its first weekend for a five-day total of $66,181,645 from around 7,500 screens at 3,568 theaters. Some analysts considered these initial numbers disappointing, saying that studio executives had been expecting more. The film went on to gross $218,080,025 in the North American market and ended up in the top five highest-grossing films of the year there. The film grossed an additional $344,283,424 at the box office in other regions for a worldwide total of $562,363,449, which not only ranked it in the top five highest-grossing films of 2005 worldwide, but also helped the film bring back more than two-and-a-half times its production budget.
During its home video release, King Kong sold over $100 million worth of DVDs in the largest six-day performance in Universal Studios history.
King Kong sold more than 7.6 million DVDs, accumulating nearly $194 million worth of sales numbers in the North American market alone. As of June 25, 2006, King Kong has generated almost $38 million from DVD rental gross. In February 2006, TNT/TBS and ABC paid Universal Studios $26.5 million for the television rights to the film.
King Kong received acclaim from critics. On aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 268 reviews, with an average rating of 7.68/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Featuring state-of-the-art special effects, terrific performances, and a majestic sense of spectacle, Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong is a potent epic that's faithful to the spirit of the 1933 original." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.
It was placed on the 'top ten' lists of several critics, with Roger Ebert giving it four stars, and listed it as 2005's eighth-best film. The film received four Academy Award nominations, for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, Hammond Peek), Sound Editing, and Production Design, winning all but the last. Entertainment Weekly called the depiction of Kong the most convincing computer-generated character in film in 2005. Some criticised the film for retaining racist stereotypes that had been present in the 1933 film, though it was not suggested that Jackson had done this intentionally. King Kong ranks 450th on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. The Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw said that it "certainly equals, and even exceeds, anything Jackson did in Lord of the Rings." However, Charlie Brooker, also of The Guardian, gave a negative review in which he describes the film as "sixteen times more overblown and histrionic than necessary".
ROTTEN TOMATOES - 5 REASONS WHY PETER JACKSON'S KING KONG IS A BRILLIANT EXAMPLE
OF A REMAKE DONE RIGHT
Remakes are double-edged swords. The best ones manage to recapture the sense of discovery we felt with the original films while offering fresh new experiences; most remakes fail to accomplish one of those two goals, and the very worst ones miss the mark on both. Before it became trendy to refashion every beloved film as a tentpole blockbuster, Peter Jackson followed on the huge success of his Lord of the Rings trilogy with his own take on a childhood favorite, King Kong.
Jackson’s version is a gargantuan journey to a lost world using cutting-edge visual and special effects, with a story that imparts more weight to classic characters. This tale of hubris is not only a fantastic movie in its own right, but it also set a standard for blockbuster remakes that play with audiences’ familiarity with the source material and provide new perspectives on classic tales. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, we head to Skull Island explore how Peter Jackson successfully reintroduced a cinematic legend to a new generation by putting his own stamp on it.
After the 1976 King Kong brought its central character to a contemporary setting, Jackson took the story back to its roots as a period piece set in the 1930s. While director Merian Cooper’s original 1933 film mostly avoided portraying the Great Depression because audiences didn’t need a reminder of what was happening around them, Jackson dove into how that environment helped birth the Kong myth. The opening scene of his film introduces the grandeur of New York’s wealth and the birth of its skyline, while giving equal gravitas to the city’s squalor; people are being served eviction notices, and soup lines extend as far as the eye can see. Not only are people desperate for money — like protagonist Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who accepts a job to shoot a film overseas with only the promise of maybe getting paid — but they are desperate to have some magic come back to the world.
Jackson grants added importance to the setting, not just in the cultural background, but also in the filmmaking landscape of the time. There are plenty of references to the original film, including a mention of original actress Fay Wray, and Jack Black’s character Carl Denham is also clearly meant to represent a more frustrated and unsuccessful version of Orson Welles. Jackson also takes a more old-fashioned approach to the pacing of his film, playing with audiences’ expectations and making them wait nearly an hour before finally, slowly and patiently, revealing the titular Kong.
Even if Peter Jackson honored the original and stuck to some old-school techniques, there’s no doubt King Kong takes full advantage of every advancement in filmmaking, especially visual effects. The moment the film arrives at Skull Island, Jackson shifts gears and fully brings King Kong into horror movie territory. Sure, some of the computer-generated
dinosaurs haven’t aged particularly well, but the scene when the ship’s crew falls into an insect pit — a concept Merian Cooper abandoned because it scared test audiences back in the ’30s — is utterly terrifying, especially when Lumpy (played by a human Andy Serkis, who also provided the motion capture performance for Kong himself) is devoured by an army of leeches.
The wildlife of the island not only looks great and is utilized effectively to convey a sense of wonder and horror, but the actual location looks like nothing audiences had seen to that point (except maybe in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Skull Island feels like a place that belongs in our world, but was lost to time. The giant walls that surround the island, the temple-like architecture, and the towering mountains that loom above miles-long pits filled with giant
insects lend the location a real sense of geography, capturing the mystery and adventure Carl Denham is constantly boasting about.
How do you capture the shock and awe of seeing Kong climb up the Empire State Building when everyone on Earth has either witnessed the moment themselves or seen countless parodies and homages to it for over 70 years after the original film was released? You do it by showing it from a different point of view. Just as he extends the wait before we finally meet Kong, Jackson reframes the film’s most famous set piece as a melancholy tragedy. Rather than watch the action from the perspective of the heroic airplane pilots who attempt to rescue Ann, we watch the incident unfold from Kong and Ann’s perspective, as Jackson slowly builds up the human threat to Kong before revealing the planes as if they were the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
King Kong doesn’t invite the audience to be awed by the prowess of the pilots or the spectacle of a 25-foot gorilla. Instead, this scene continues long enough to make you feel the sense of dread and imminent doom descending upon the titular king. The death of Kong was sad even in the original film, but it was Peter Jackson’s King Kong that finally recognized the huge tragedy of the scene and its emotional weight, and it works because it knows you are already familiar with it.
Though King Kong is full of imagery and references to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and plays on the ideas of savagery and civilization, the film can easily be read as an exploration of the magic of filmmaking.
Indeed, if the original film was all about mankind’s obsession with trying to tame and control nature, Jackson’s remake is about how a filmmaker shares that same false sense of control. Carl Denham spends the first act trying to sell the idea for his movie as a public service because he’s capturing the last piece of mystery left in the world. His journey to getting the film made is arduous and long — not unlike Jackson’s own journey with the film, which he had to partially finance after it became far longer and more expensive than anticipated. But Denham’s misplaced sense of duty results in the death of most of his crew, which he tries to downplay as a noble sacrifice he’ll honor by dedicating the finished production to them. This version of Denham is a far more complex antagonist than in previous versions of the film, one that mistakes his obsession with control with artistic integrity and a sense of duty towards an audience that needs escapism.
When Andy Serkis’ Gollum first showed up in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was a groundbreaking moment for motion-capture performance. If Gollum was Serkis’ opening statement, however, King Kong is his mic drop moment. This Kong is neither the savage brute of the original film nor the nearly no-show from the 1976 film, but a giant who looks to the horizon with big dreams in his mind and melancholy in his heart. Serkis’ Kong sold audiences on the idea that they could watch an animal behave and act with as many expressions and as much heart as its human co-stars.
A big reason why Kong’s death at the end of the film hits so hard is because of Serkis’ characterization of him not as a monster, but as someone with a soul who connects to Ann on a deeper level than just as a plaything. Even if by the end of the film we’re supposed to connect to Ann and Adrien Brody’s Jack, the real romance is between Ann and Kong; the two quickly connect as marginalized creatures who bond over the emptiness in their lives.
Serkis would, of course, go on to play Caesar, the chimpanzee leader of the newly evolved apes in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, in another remarkable motion-capture performance that cemented Serkis as the king of the form. But he is one of the biggest reasons Peter Jackson’s King Kong works as well as it does, and after 15 years, his work here may still be the most compelling reason among many to revisit the film.
think this was a movie worth waiting for, up until 2005,
audiences were just watching a remake of the 1933 original,
and then this work of CGI and VFX art came along, with just
the exception of the gorge full of over-the-top insects and
swamp creatures. But, what the heck, the graphics were still
good. We enjoyed the movie, and just like Peter Jackson,
cried when the great ape crashed to his death. So, well done
Mr Jackson and everyone who made this picture so enjoyable.]