10 Years: “King Kong (2005)”

  They say that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, and usually that’s just a stupid saying. They also say, the third time’s the charm. That’s also usually an obnoxious phrase. Seldom do these ever apply quite well when discussing films, particularly those that are remakes of well known films. But, as they also say, there’s a first for everything.

The Universal Pictures film “King Kong”, is an incredible and breathtaking visual spectacle that achieves what the original and the first remake could never do.

This adventure film stars Naomi Watt (upcoming films “About Ray”, “Shut In”), Jack Black (upcoming “Kung Fu Panda 3”, “Goosebumps”), Adrien Brody (“Dragon Blade”, “Houdini”), Thomas Kretschmann (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Hitman: Agent 47”), Colin Hanks (“Life in Pieces”, “Drunk History”), Jamie Bell (“Fantastic Four (2015)”, “Turn: Washington’s Spies”), Evan Parke (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, “American Horror Story”), Lobo Chan (“Holby City”, “Peaky Blinders”), Kyle Chandler (“Carol”, “Bloodline”), and Andy Serkis (upcoming “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”).

The film was directed by Peter Jackson (“The Hobbit” Trilogy, “The Lovely Bones”) and written by Fran Walsh (“The Hobbit” Trilogy, “The Lovely Bones”), Philippa Boyens (“The Hobbit” Trilogy, “The Lovely Bones”), and Jackson (“The Hobbit” Trilogy, “The Lovely Bones”).

The film originally hit theaters on Dec. 14, 2005. The film would go on to be nominated for four Academy Awards; winning three, two Golden Globe Awards, and three BAFTA Awards; winning one.

While I knew this was going to happen, I somehow felt like I would never get around to the main event; it just seemed so far off. The most recent remake, which has now officially turned 10 years old today! It’s excited because of both these things! And now that I’ve revisited this world, not only for the third time, but first in anywhere between the last eight to 10 years, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t return sooner. I knew there was a lot to love about this film, as it was directed and co-written by Jackson, but I’d forgotten to what level it was that I could love this film. Time does make the heart grow fonder (which will also be my last cliché phrase, hopefully). With Jackson’s ridiculously long take on a pretty old tale, I’m also able to just truly marvel at how far motion pictures have come. Obviously I knew it was far, but seeing all three films, and basically making side-by-side comparisons the whole time, I just took it all in as if for the first time. Thank god there are creative people like Jackson out there making films!

The biggest area that made me love this film, and had the most improvement over the course of 72 years (now 82 years) was in the area of emotional development. Be that just the human characters themselves (like in the first 15 minutes or so when we really see Ann and what she’s going through or the time on the ship before the island) or Kong, or more specifically, the iconic relationship between Ann and Kong. This film’s emotional center, rightly so, comes from the relationship that actually does develop between Ann and Kong.This film’s Ann is actually the smartest of the three women taken by Kong. She’s rightly afraid, but slowly, she realizes that there’s more to him, and she approaches him, really early on, quite differently. It’s because of this, that one of my favorite scenes, is when Ann entertains Kong shortly after being taken by him. It may have been by accident, but she immediately recognized this as a way to keep him calm, and herself safe.

I noticed too that what helped to build this relationship a lot more, and made me care more for Kong, is that he’s the most gentle of the Kong’s. In this film, he’s scary at times, particularly when he’s protecting Ann, or trying to save himself from those trying to kill him as they don’t understand him, but not because of how he was designed. The first film did its best to create a monster, and make him sympathetic, but it really didn’t come across well. Blame the lack of technological advances at that time. As I stated in the 1976 post, I believe that the producers and creators actually went for a bit more of a scarier Kong. This Kong, not only had a different approach taken for him from a character standpoint, but he also benefited the most from how far technology had come. With motion capture technology used, which I’m still not fully a fan of, Jackson was able to get an actor (Serkis) to portray Kong, and this also allowed for Watts to have something to respond to. One actually affected the other. I believe this greatly improved the level of emotions Kong could have, and then the rest of his actual design sealed the love for this character.

Among the well crafted emotional aspects, that allow you to develop your own love of Kong, is when Kong throws a fit after Ann stops performing for him. It was both, funny and moving. She couldn’t think of anything else to do, so she stopped an Kong didn’t like this. So, like any child he got upset. It deepened the bond between them. Even later on, after Kong’s once again saved Ann from some terrible creature that wants to eat her (V Rex’s), Ann is trying to comfort him. She see’s how hurt he is and does her best to thank him.Who knew such deep emotions could be reached by the concern a woman could show a giant gorilla?

Another favorite scene of mine is the ice skating with Ann bit. In Kong’s rush to get away from those shooting at him and keep Ann safe, he stumbles and slides onto a frozen lake. They kind of skate around for a moment before stopping, and it’s in this that we really see the love he has for Ann. It was also beautiful and funny, which this film did quite well at times. Nothing force. While it’s a really cute moment between them and very touching it also shows why this film has one major negative aspect. The film is too damn long! No matter how wonderfully touching some of the sequences, or how much they helped develop the characters, which they did, it only added to the length. At a few times I did feel like I wanted things to be over. I wished that some of the sequences had been shorter or not there at all. This bit is even funnier, because if the film had been shorter, I wonder if the relationship between Ann and Kong could’ve been as moving as it turned out? Could we have even gotten to know the characters the way that we did? Probably not. So, the length of the film did both. It helped and it hurt it.

There’s also the sequence when they’re atop the Empire State Building, before all the airplanes start shooting. This is another surprising and touching moment. It’s not that they needed to include another, as if we didn’t believe them by now, but it provides consistency. Kong’s taking another moment to reunite with Ann and to see that she’s okay. After all, she was the one that sought him out. And then, sadly and lastly, right as Kong is about to lose his grip and fall to his death. Because of everything that’s come before, the way it was all created, this moment, actually made me quite sad for him and Ann. When the scene cut back and forth between a dying Kong and a deeply saddened Ann, you could just see and feel everything they were. Watching this scene again, I wasn’t prepared for how moved I’d be, and how surprised at what Ann felt. She felt so much for him, that, even though their strange relationship started off rough, it grew and grew, until she was so affected by it and ultimately saddened by his death.

In order to achieve any of the emotion and excitement, of course, there was score! Interestingly, I just assumed it was Howard Shore (composer of the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy), but, as it turns out, it wasn’t. It’s James Newton Howard (upcoming “Concussion”, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2”), which I should’ve recognized from the way the score just sounded different from that of what Shore would’ve created. I like Howard, but these men have to very different sounds. For me, sadly, this score only works well inside the film. I’ve listened to it a few times now, since seeing the film again, and I’m not responding the way I’d hoped. Regardless this score is incredible to hear during any of the scenes or sequences that take place. And, of course, when there’s the bonding moments between Kong and Ann. The score really helped those scenes land emotionally, and again, for me to actually be so saddened when Kong dies.

I also want to say that this score helped bring about a feeling this film got right, that without it, wouldn’t have made me enjoy the final result. This film, more than the others, really understood the ideas of danger, adventure, and overall thrills. Once things really began, going all the way back to being on the boat, the film never really let up. You went from one thing to the next and each was exciting and provided the right amount of scares and thrills. Or, in the case of the bug sequence, thrills an discomfort. There was so much delivered and improved on by this score!

And, in case you thought I’d forgotten, the main event! The reason why anyone went to see this film at all. The CGI that was used to bring this film to life was spectacular! It’s really quite impeccable, but it has some flaws that I wasn’t aware of before. Granted, it’s been at least a decade since I last saw this film. The scope of this film, is so big! It’s incredible! Everything about it is just rich with texture. The island itself is such a well imagined and lush world, that I forgot it possible to get lost from the comfort of my couch. I did, and it didn’t stop there.

Kong’s look or design was upgraded big time! Basically, aside from Serkis doing motion capture work, it’s all about the realistic design and the details to showcase this realism, that brought Kong to life. There was a lot of this film that involved the audience seeing Kong up close and moving a lot more than in the previous movies. The sequences involving Kong were all much more involved and detailed, that it was unavoidable (I imagine) to have to be as precise as possible with the detail that went into Kong. Without this, he’d no doubt look really fake and absolutely silly.

There was also all of the various creature looks and designs. Let’s see, there were the bugs (gross!), the not dinosaur dinosaurs (huge!), and all the other scary looking creatures I’m not recalling. I believe there were more than just those. Still, the detail into these creatures was stunning. Everything, from the color of the individual creatures to the way they moved was exactly what you’d expect from a CG heavy film, and a film directed by Jackson. I guess at the same time while just about everyone loves “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and what Jackson did, it sucks because if it comes to CG heavy films, we’ll be expecting a lot from him and the creative teams that bring them to life.

Because of the attention given to the individual creatures, and the times when they needed to appear together in a given scene, the many action sequences played out really well. I was able to really get into the moments, and even found myself breathing sighs of relief after they finished. That’s how intense and good they were. However, much like the tender moments between Ann and Kong, some of these sequences just went on too damn long. The fight between Kong vs. three V Rex’s, which turned into one V Rex, was amazing, but probably didn’t need to be that lengthy. The Brontosaurus like dinosaurs stampeding, with meat eating dinosaurs were chasing them, amazing, fun and non-stop, but at some point I just wanted it to be over. I even entertained the idea of fast forwarding, but I couldn’t. I had to stick it out! So I did, and yes, I came away pleased, but, like right now, can’t figure out why Jackson thinks it’s necessary to have lengthy sequences that only inflate the film’s run time. We still could’ve had wonderful action sequences and tender moments, without going over three hours in length.

Lastly, on CGI, while everything did look amazing and kept me interested the whole time, there’s always a downside somewhere. Here, it comes in the form of the second negative thing about this film. A few instances look incredibly fake and were a bit distracting. The one that stands out the most, which I can’t get out of my mind, is when Chandler, Black or any of the other actors running from the stampede, are shown in front of the Brontosaurus like dinosaurs. It’s clearly fake. Badly done green screen or blue, or whatever they used. I was kind of thrown by this. The sequence was incredibly exciting and fun, but there was no shortage of bad background imagery. The dinosaurs individually looked good, but when the characters were running and the animals were behind them, you could just tell it was fake. I don’t know if this is how it looked 10 years ago, but if it didn’t, then it clearly didn’t hold up well over time. Can’t have everything be perfect all the time. I wonder what “The Lord of the Rings” films look like?

One more thing I found interesting between this remake and the first one, you know to round out my overall comparisons. This film, far more than the 1976 version, is definitely a remake of the original 1933 film. I guess I’d forgotten this and was pleasantly surprised by it. I also, of course, started make notes and thinking back on the ways in which this film is a straight remake and not like a retelling. This film also, some more overtly than subtly, payed homage to the original film.

For instance, there’s the general look and feel of this film, which serves as your first giveaway. The film is set in 1933, and thus requires a very precise look to the film. You’ve gotta bring the best look of the 1930s or people will feel out of place. And so, through production design, costumes, and no doubt digital effects, the 1930s was able to be recreated and in an interestingly visual way.

Then, there’s things throughout the film itself. There’s the log sequence, which has been seen in all three films in some form or another, and Kong playing with the jaw of the V Rex after he’s killed it. When I was watching the original film, I was vaguely recalling this bit in this version, but wasn’t sure. Then, finally getting to this newer one, I immediately recognized it! I guess I’d forgotten how much was carried over from 70 years prior. I mean, also, the V Rex fight scene itself was really close to matching the original. Just amazing!

And of course, quite noticeably, there’s the final line of the film. According to what I remember hearing 10 years ago, this sole line was supposed to be spoken by original actress Fay Wray, but she died the year before this could happen, and thus it was spoken by Black.

“It was beauty killed the beast.”

Then, I guess, to some extent, the general progression of the story. It directly mirrors that of the original film. Yes, I do see that the 1976 version does too, but the ending took place atop different buildings, and they were on a hunt for oil, not to film a movie. So, there’s that. I’m sure there were other nods to the original film, but I just don’t what they are, or they didn’t immediately stand out to me. Maybe with another viewing in the future I’ll notice them.

I may be at a conflicted place when it comes to remakes, but even I know a good thing when I see it. It can’t really be denied that sometimes, even with remakes, you are given a well made film that you didn’t know you needed. Sadly, a good remake seems to come once in a blue moon. Because of this, I don’t think I’ll every fully come around to the idea of remakes, especially if they’re ones made mere years (what basically seems like seconds) after the original film. It’s the most ridiculous thing in the world. Although, now it seems that Hollywood is going back to the ‘90s to find films that aren’t even 20 years old (until tomorrow), to remake for an audience that doesn’t need it. What I call those eager filmgoers is lazy. Go find a store and rent it, or just buy it, and you’ll have the film to see. There’s no damn reason for a remake! Especially if the remake, or as they’re calling them now, reboots, that’s only five to 10 years old!! Did I mention I was conflicted?

Film’s stunning trailer:

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