A Review of the Kongs

        Recently we viewed the 1933 King Kong film in our History of the Cinema class. A month or so before that, I viewed Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong in the theater. The two movies are alike in the main points of their stories and characters. That is where the similarities end. Despite being a remake of the original, Peter Jackson's version of King Kong is a completely different film from the original. The movies differ in obvious ways, such as special effects and less obvious ways such as the progression of story and the development of King Kong as a character.

        In special effects the newest film is definitely superior because it employs the experience of seventy-two years of special effects development and progression. Peter Jackson's film uses cutting edge special effects and gives a realistic view of what the movie would look like if the story had really taken place. Peter Jackson's world is beautiful and provocative. The special effects are really inspiring and eye-catching.

        The original film had very little to work with in the way of special effects. The film relied on "claymation" to bring life and movement to the character of Kong. In 1933 these special effects were striking, horrifying, and realistic. It is difficult for us living in the twenty-first century to grasp that fact but not so difficult to respect the innovativeness for its time. Despite being so dated, the "claymation" still gets the job done and makes me think, "How did they do that?"

        The new film did a wonderful job of was making Kong a well-developed character and not just a monster. I was really convinced that Kong was in love with Anne and was actually rooting for him throughout the movie. I loved his protectiveness of Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and his gentleness with her, even when he was fighting two monsters at once. However, when I watched the older Kong, I felt that he just possessed his Ann (Fay Wray) but did not really care about her on any deeper level as he did in the newer film.

        The new film lacked in one area that the old one excelled, and that is the progression of story line. As impressive as the special effects were, the new film really lagged in story progression. Near the end of the latter film I was getting a little restless and bored. I was actually ready for Kong to get killed and the movie to finish. The older film was much shorter and progressed more smoothly. There was less down time with Kong stroking Ann. The old film got down to business and progressed fluidly.

        One area where both films are indisputably excellent is the action. Both films are action-packed throughout. I could sit and watch the fight scenes without any storyline at all, just to watch a giant ape pummel dinosaurs, giant insects, snakes, and bats.

        All in all the two Kongs are both great films. I would recommend them to anyone. In fact I would recommend that everyone watch both films, just so they can understand the progression in cinematography and special effects, and realize that the two by themselves do not necessarily make a better story or film.

Curt Stewart

Table of Contents