Tuesday, 23 November 2010

King Kong Review

King Kong

King Kong is a 1933 film directed by Merian C. Cooper & ernest B. Schoedsack. The film follows a film producer, along with his cast and crew, on an adventure to a mysterious tropical island for a film shoot. Little do they know that this island, known as "Skull Island", is home to a giant gorilla.

King Kong was a one of a kind film of its time and is highly inspiring to this day. A number of things make this film special, from the technical aspects to the storyline and the way it is portrayed. The story has similarities to "Beauty and the Beast" in the way that King Kong falls for Ann Darrow, but it still has its originality about it. The film is made using stop motion and the person in charge of the visual effects was Willis H. O'Brien.

"It could have been about a gorilla smashing things and killing people, but everything is taken one, two, three steps further." (Robert Ring,2006, Classichorror.com)

The films strongest point is definately the visuals and stopmotion animation, without it being so great the film wouldn't have been half as successful. The reason the visuals are so good is because of O'Briens extreme attention to detail. Not only is Kong animated well, he is given character and emotion that even most films of today fail to convey in their CG animated characters (i.e. Peter Jacksons King Kong remake). For example Kong raises his eyebrows and smiles so we know he's happy at the sight of Darrow. When the Tyrannosaurus scratches his face, it shows that he is confused or really itches, all of these little details which are not picked up on by all artists and animators are vital when trying to portray feelings, especially in an animal.

The smoothness of the stopmotion is very noticable, especially in the scene with the dinosaur swimming through the water. That particular scene can easily be mistaken as being computer animated by viewers today because of its detail. Another impressive scene was when Kong was shaking the tree that the crew where standing on, trying to make them fall to their deaths. It was striking because, amongst other scenes, it shows the fantastical creature interacting with real people in its entirity. The way the tree rocks and the crews actions throughout that scene makes Kong seem real, like there is really a giant gorilla shaking that tree! It was done using rear projection and was done to ensure we see Kong in the frame with the humans. It would have been easier, for sure, to show Kong in a closeup and then cut to a matching shot of a human and let our imaginations put them in the same jungle, but this film takes the extra time to show them in the frame together, bridging that gap and further adding to the realism of the scene.

Disregarding the visuals, the film isnt all that. The acting is poor and there isnt really much work for the actors either, the story is told visually. Darrow was a bit over the top in this film, if she wasnt screaming she would simply be in the way etc. She was iconic, but that doesnt really mean her performance was "classic". Having said that, acting expectations must have been a lot different in the 30's, but What was acceptable in 1933 is barely adequate in comparison with the top performances of today. Also the film wasn't very traditional, which is odd being a 1930's film. Ann Darrow happens to get pulled over by Carl Denham in a cafe and is asked to be in his film, which is set oversea's. She is then whisked away on a boat to a foreign island who nobody onboard knew a thing about. Firstly, a woman wouldn't be put on a crew ship to sail the sea's because it was seen as dangerous and not a womanly thing. Secondly, it wouldn't be a good look for her being on a ship full of men especially when she wasnt married.

"King Kong was created to grip and thrill like no movie before, and these basic principles hold surprisingly true today."

King Kong has made a mark in history and is said to really be "The Eighth Wonder of the World". It has gone on to influence and inspire the majority of animated films made later like "Jurassic Park" and "Godzilla" being some of the main inspirations. Alothough it is old, King Kong still holds up as one of the greatest screen productions which even some films of today cannot stand up to. The storyline is simple but the writers, directors and visual effects team made the most of it.

"The scene with Kong grasping the top of the Empire State Building with one hand while swiping futilely at the attacking bi-planes with the other makes a statement about man's indiscriminate destruction of nature on the path to technological mastery. Kong was king of Skull Island, but, on Manhattan Island, he is a rampaging nuisance to be dealt with. It's not so much beauty that killed the beast, as it is the inexorable march of progress. In the world of man, a mythical beast like Kong has no place."

This particular scene at the end of the film has lead to controversy among critics. It is seen to mean more then just what it is, it covers a variety of themes and has other "hidden" meanings. Particular emphasis has been on the issue of "unbound nature versus modern civilization" and "endless conquest to control the natural world" as Duarte put it in his/her analysis of the film. In an expedition we witness a man of the 20th century looking to explore and undiscovered island for profit. After not getting his own way when he is sent away by the people of the land, he doesnt simply stop there and go home, he acts selfishly and takes whats not his (Kong) off the island for public display on Broadway, shackled and defeated. Kong, however, breaks free of his subjugation and, soon after, scales the Empire State Building. With the Empire State Building being a man made high-tech spectacle at the time, it suggests Kong has triumphed over the synthetic, unnatural concrete jungle of New York and indicates that only humanity's manmade achievements (flight) is the only thing to bring the beast down. A film of today with this principle implemented in would be that of Avatar, which again shows humans ignorance to nature and that which we fail and simply cannot be bothered to understand.

Overall King Kong is an enjoyable film to watch and is highly recommended for appreitative vieweres, inspiration hunters and those who wish to relive their early days.

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