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King Kong Comparison (1933-2005)

I look at both of the best King Kong movies, how they were made, the actors and the equipment and compare them to each other

Joe Green

on 15 May 2014

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Transcript of King Kong Comparison (1933-2005)

King Kong
1933 and 2005

The cast of King Kong
King Kong (1933)

The original King Kong starred Fay Wray as Anne Darrow, Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham and Bruce Cabot as Jack Driscoll. It was produced, Written and Directed by Merian C. Cooper, with the help of Ernest B.Schoedsack and Edgar Wallace. Schoedsack and Cooper also worked on The Most Dangerous Game together while making King Kong.

King Kong (2005)

In the remake the story was still based on the original by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace but was re-written by Peter Jackson who also directed the film and the last couple of years before had made the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, obviously meaning that audiences were expecting something just as good as those movies. Ann Darrow was played this time by Naomi Watts with Jack Black as Carl Denham and Adrian Brody as Jack Driscoll. There were also several new side characters included like Andy Sirkis who played Lumpy the cook but also did the acting for Kong and Collin Hanks who played Preston, Denhams assistant
Which has the better cast?
Many people love the Original and a lot of them also enjoyed the Remake just as much. some even more. but which had the better cast?
First I'll compare the leading lady, Ann Darrow.

In the original Ann's back story isn't too clear or talked about. we first see her stealing an apple from a show when the shop keeper catches her and threatens to arrest her and Denham has to persuade him to let her go. In the remake this still happens but we're shown why she reverts to stealing and you actually feel sorry for her. In the original it is hard to feel something for someone you hardly know. Denham offers her the part of joining his crew and becoming an actor in his film. In both films she takes the offer but this is done differently in both. In the original she just snaps up the offer without even thinking of the danger or work, in the remake she at first turns it down but after realizing that this is her best chance to get away she says yes. also in the remake she used to work on stage which obviously shows that she has had experience with acting and actually makes her character more interesting.

Fay Wray's Ann was acted as a character who was down on her luck but was confident and kind hearted. However the second Kong first appears on screen her character swaps the trait of being kind and slightly interesting to being very loud and annoying. The fact that she never stops screaming becomes very annoying very quickly, although when the film first came out people wouldn't have been too bothered by this as they only saw her as the damsel in distress.
Naomi Watts' Ann is a lot more interesting and a more likable character in my opinion. We're shown her background story and what she's struggling with and why she's lead to stealing and eventually joins with Denham and his crew. We even see her trying to entertain Kong so that he doesn't eat her like he did with all the other sacrifices, which in turn gives Kong a reason to fall in love with her.

I think most people would agree that Naomi Watts is the better Ann then Fay Wray. Although Fay did do a good job as Ann, Naomi is just more believable and likable. Her character is more likeable and has a lot more personality to her. She has a back story and a reason to be stealing. I also feel that her acting is just a lot less hammy and a lot more realistic and understandable and she relates well to women.
Jack Driscoll and Carl Denham

Jack Driscoll is very different in both films. In the original he's a tough actor who doesn't like to admit his feelings or get attacked to people but finds quite quickly that he has feelings towards Ann. In the remake he's a script writer for theater who's joined with Denham to write the script for him who then has to become a hero so he can save his love, Ann. Jack is never really given a back story in either film. his job is different in both but they never address him as going through any difficulties or having any major reason to work with Denham. In the remake he definitely shows as a strong person who can hold his own but in the remake he doesn't look, sound or act like a confident person, but this does work with his new personality and job. I think that most people would agree that Jack from the original film is the much better Jack simply because of how much he looks and acts like a hero. Jack was always meant to be the hero of the story and he certainly is more believable in the original then the remake, not to say that the remakes Jack is bad in any way.

Carl Denham doesn't change too much between movies. he's still the over obsessed director who will do anything to get his film. even risk the life of his friends and crew. In the remake however they give him a reason to be so greedy and self centered. In the Original he's just shown as being like that but in the remake he's lost his job as director and is actually threatened to be thrown in jail. he runs away on the boat and filming on skull island is his only way of keeping his job. this cleverly shows why he's so desperate to keep filming because he needs the footage in order to stay out of prison and keep his job. the part of Denham is played very well by both Jack Black and Robert Armstrong but a lot of people still think that Armstrong did the better job of acting him. I personally think Jack Black was the better actor and character because you felt sorry for him. even though Carl in the end is pritty much the bad guy I feel that you could bring yourself to understand him more which in turn made him kind of threatening because the audience could relate to him and maybe see bits of themselves in him.
Comparing The King Himself
Kong has become an american icon. when people think of the empire state building they think of a giant ape holding a woman standing on top of it. but which of the two films had the better Kong?

Kong in both films is portrayed very differently. In the original Kong is shown as a half human, half ape creature that is probably a lot more human then he is ape. They definitely show how human he is as he walks a lot like a person and in a way acts like a person. He's curious and rather childlike, he's always exploring, protecting Ann and learning about things around him. He even plays with the dinosaurs he kills. this leads the audience to actually feel sorry for him when Carl and his team capture him.
In the remake Kong is definitely a lot more ape then human. He doesn't walk on two feet but instead on his feet and knuckles, He roars like a gorrila and most importantly he looks just like one. This design wouldn't have work on the original Kong as peoples views in 1933 were very different. They didn't respect or know about animals like we do know. So this Kong has a better effect on us because we can see that even though he's a giant ape he does have some humanity to him, that he has emotions. He does act a lot like an animal but at the same time you can tell he's a lot like a person. He laughs, entertains himself and actually gets angry when Ann refuses to let him flick her around. But he still shows actual human emotions through this. After he throws a tantrum he sits alone feeling sad, just like a child would do. For me the remakes Kong is he better one because I actually believe he's alive and I feel sorry for him but most people would probably say that the originals Kong was the more likable one because he doesn't look as fake as the CGI Kong looks after a while and at the time the stop motion used to make Kong was amazing and like nothing the audiences had ever seen.
Technology Used in the making of
King Kong
This film is widely renowned for being one of the first full length films to use stop motion animation. Kong and all the animals of skull island were created using large figure puppets with metal skeletons inside which allowed the animals to move properly and stay in one piece. Willis O'Brien had to come up and create this animation form so he could bring Kong to life. He spent twenty years on it and found that they needed to take 24 different images of Kong in different position in order to make it look like 1 second of recorded footage, similar to the making of a cartoon. This led to slight problems however. Although the stop motion did make the creatures look more alive then a puppet the trouble came with how long it took to make it. The crew working on the model creation would only manage to get 10 frames made in an hour and the film itself is 2 and a half hours long.

As well as using puppets for the animals they found that scenes where Kong or one of the dinosaurs where attacking the crew they couldn't figure out how to get the tiny puppet to look bigger then the people and attack them. Willis O'Brien came up with the idea to us a Rear Projection unit so that they could get the actors into shot with the creatures. They did this by having the projector show a frame from a recording they'd already taken of the actor for each frame they took of Kong or the dinosaurs attacking. This recording would take up a small area on the screen and make it more believable that the characters where there with the creatures. This technology was not only unique but ground breaking and helped make way for even more films to use this technique in animations.

As well as the creatures in King Kong they also used animation and even miniatures for the boat, long shots of the island, New York and many other things. This allowed them to make shots like Kong on top of the Empire state building work without it looking fake. they even made a full sized peak to have Ann lie on when Kong falls to his death and Jack comes to rescue her. they even had to make small models of Ann and some other characters to use when she's being carried by Kong or even in one shot when she tries to escape him on the mountain they use stop motion models.
In the remake of the classic 1933 film they use a lot different styles to bring Kong to life. there is no use of stop motion in this film but instead to bring the creatures to life they used CGI and computer animation to create both the animals and quite a bit of the locations. Peter Jackson even said in one of his behind the scenes videos for the movie that he originally planned to use stop motion creatures in the movie but he found that it would take way to long and that they didn't have the time or money to do so. while the CGI dinosaurs do look a lot more convincing and actually move a bit more solidly then the plasticine models but it does become a bit too fake after a while as the CGI doesn't always make them look realistic and definitely doesn't keep them looking real. While Peter Jackson did make models to use or at least create what he wanted the scene to look like they do occasionally appear in the film. Jackson made an almost full sized version of the ship to record the characters standing on deck and a smaller version to use as the ship from a long shot.

The locations where almost entirely made up of miniature landscapes and small sets dresses up to look like the location. Although CGI was used to make some scenes and locations and also used to add a bit of dimension and detail to the miniature sets, most of the locations you see in the film are genuine sets made buy the art team. Although many may say they like the Originals effects better because it looks more realistic and there is no use of CGI which gets a bit too unrealistic after a while. I do feel that the Remake has good effects in as well (Even if there is a bit too much CGI). The Movements and actions for Kong himself were acted out by Andy Sirkis in a special censor suit which copied his actions onto Kong and for me this makes the remakes Kong all the more realistic. Andy even went on to act as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes after this and in that film the apes look just as real as actual apes.
Films Success
The Original King Kong was well received by both the public and critics all over America. One newspaper critic at the time described the film as "A Fantastic Film in Which a Monstrous Ape Uses Automobiles for Missiles and Climbs a Skyscraper." the film sadly didn't win any awards at the Academy Awards of 1933 or 1934. This is probably mainly due to the fact that It came out long before the time films would normally be released for awards as it was released on April the 7th and films after awards usually come out closer to the time the Oscars happen, which is usually from October to February.
The remake of King Kong had a lot of good responses to it. it could have been left alone as people may have just thought of it as another pointless remake but people enjoyed the film and a lot of critics have said they thought the film was very good. Rodger Ebert even gave the film 4 stars claiming it to be "One of this years best films". the remake did win 3 awards at the Oscars for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. While these awards aren't huge like best lead actress, best film or best director they're still good and something for the creators to be proud of.
Effect on the audience
when the original King Kong first appeared in the cinemas in 1933 it war rater R. At the time this was because people were terrified by this movie because they thought it was all real. Many even refused to go onto an elevated tram for fear of seeing Kong himself grab it from underneath. Some women even fainted when Kong was first revealed because of how terrifying he was to them. Now we look back and don't feel fear but we may find ourselves laughing at the people back then for their reactions. but we may want to remember that in another 80 years people then may laugh at us for being afraid of movies like Saw or The Ring.
When the remake came out people were used to seeing scary films by then. It had been 72 years since King Kong's release. and many other movies had been released since, especially more scary movies. By this time Alien had come out and the original King Kong was nothing scary at all by comparison. Although the remake didn't scare people anywhere near as much as the original did it did have a mild level of fear, especially when they're attacked in the chasm by the giant bugs. The remake however did manage to make people feel other emotions while watching it. for starters the Remake had a lot more character development and characters you could understand and care about. so if one of them died that the audience liked they would have been saddened. Kong, too was also improved. this version of him you felt a lot more sympathetic for because of how animal like he was and how human he was. People can bring themselves to hate a person but most would find it very hard to keep hate against an animal, mainly because in the end most animals aren't as smart as us and we end up feeling sympathy for them. That's what a lot of the audience would have felt for Kong in the remake. In the end people walked out of the theaters feeling relatively saddened by the Remake of King Kong.
America During 1933 & 2005
During this time in history America was going through the Great Depression. It is assumed it began on October 29th 1929 when the stock market crashed and kept going all the way to the mid 1940's . Unemployment had reached an all time low as 25% of America was unemployed and in other countries it was even worse. Jobs were closing down all over the place and people were being forced out of their homes to live on the streets. Some had even been forced to build make shift houses out of cardboard boxes, tents and scraps in places all over New York. The most famous of these places was Hooverville, named after President Herbert Hoover who many blamed for the depression because of his policies.

The depression had a major effect on Movie companies as well. RKO, the film company that made King Kong, almost went bankrupt as no money was coming in for them. The last movie they expected to make was King Kong and they believed it would help get the company back in business. luckily for them King Kong was a big hit and brought in a lot of money, allowing them to get back on their feet.

The great depression is one of the back focuses of the movie as, even though a lot of the movie is spent on skull island, it still pops up a lot of the movie, even if it's just a hint towards it. This may have attributed to the movie's success because people who could afford to see it may have sympathized with the characters that suffered because of the depression.
At this point in history the Great Depression had long since past and poverty and homelessness was at a much lower rate then it had been in 1933. There was, however, a big event that had happened 4 years earlier that still effected a lot of americans. The twin tower bombing still had America terrified of possible terrorist attacks. I do not feel, however that this event effected Jackson's King Kong in any major way like it would have done with a lot of movies at the time, especially the action movies which still use this event as an excuse to this day.

The remake of King Kong, in my opinion, focuses a lot more upon the hard times America was going through in 1933. instead of updating the movie to present day Jackson kept it in it's own time line, looking at what else was going on during the time and involving it even more into the movie. An example of the extra detail would be how we see Ann Darrow before she looses her job as an actress at a theater.
During this point in time Television didn't exist so there was no direct advertisements outside of the cinema. Instead the movie would have been advertised through posters, flyers and news paper reviews. In the cinema there would be advertisements for movies but these would be around a minute long and would usually just be footage played with text explaining what the movie will be about and a little bit about what will happen in it.
at this time Films were being advertised everywhere and on everything. There would still be trailers that appeared in cinemas but these were a bit shorter, quicker, usually don't have a narrator or narrative text and consist mostly on enticing you by showing you some of the best scenes in that movie. as well as this TVs was in every house by this time so the advertisements would also appear on them. there would also be posters, news articles and reviews but The posters would be on almost everything from Bill boards the the sides of buses, The news articles would be a lot more modern based with a lot more modern views added and Reviews would be more on the internet and even the radio then in news papers, so more reviews were accessible to people.
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