King Kong (2005 film)


King Kong (2005 film)
King Kong

Theatrical poster
Directed by Peter Jackson
Produced by Jan Blenkin
Carolynne Cunningham
Fran Walsh
Peter Jackson
Screenplay by Fran Walsh
Philippa Boyens
Peter Jackson
Story by Merian C. Cooper
Edgar Wallace
Starring Naomi Watts
Jack Black
Adrien Brody
Thomas Kretschmann
Kyle Chandler
Jamie Bell
Colin Hanks
Lobo Chan
and Andy Serkis
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Andrew Lesnie
Editing by Jamie Selkirk
Studio WingNut Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) December 13, 2005 (2005-12-13) (New Zealand)
December 14, 2005 (2005-12-14) (United States)
Running time 187 min (Theatrical)
201 min (Extended DVD)
Country New Zealand
United States
Language English
Budget $207 million
Box office $550.5 million

King Kong is a 2005 fantasy adventure film directed by Peter Jackson. It is a remake of the 1933 film of the same name and stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody. Andy Serkis, through performance capture, portrays Kong.

The film's budget climbed from an initial US$150 million to a record-breaking $207 million. The film was released on December 14, 2005 and made an opening of $50.1 million. While the film performed lower than expectations, King Kong made domestic and worldwide grosses that eventually added up to $550 million,[1] becoming the fourth-highest grossing movie in Universal Pictures history. Strong DVD sales also added over $100 million to the grosses.[2] It also received positive reviews, with some considering it one of the all-round best movies of 2005, though it has been criticised for its length at three hours and seven minutes. It won Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing.

Contents

Plot summary

The film opens in New York City, 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. Having lost her job as a vaudeville actress, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is hired by troubled filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black) to act in his new motion picture. Ann signs on when she learns her favourite playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) is the screenwriter. As the tramp steamer SS Venture sails to mysterious Skull Island, they slowly fall in love. As for Carl, a warrant is out for his arrest and Captain Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann) begins to have second thoughts, following the fears of his crew about Skull Island. Despite his attempt to turn around, the ship is lost in fog and runs aground on the rocks encircling the island.

Carl and his crew explore the island to film and are attacked by the vicious natives. Mike (Craig Hall), the sound technician, is speared, one of the sailors has his head bashed in, and Jack is knocked out. Ann screams, and a roar beyond the wall responds. The matriarch vows to sacrifice her to "Kong", a 25 ft (8m) gorilla. Englehorn and his crew break up the attack and return to the stranded ship. They lighten their load to steer away, but Jack discovers Ann has been kidnapped. On the island, Ann is hung from a balcony on the side of the wall. The crew comes armed, but is too late. Kong takes Ann into the jungle.

Captain Englehorn organizes a rescue party to find Ann and hunt down the beast. The rescue party is caught up in a Venatosaurus (modern day Velociraptor) pack's hunt of Brontosaurus, and Herb (John Sumner), the cameraman, is killed along with three sailors. Ann manages to entertain Kong with juggling and dancing. The rest of the rescue party come across a swamp where Bruce Baxter (Kyle Chandler) and two others leave the group. The survivors stumble across a log, where Kong attacks, shaking them off the log into a ravine. He returns to rescue Ann from three Vastatosaurus Rex (modern day Tyrannosaurus), and takes her up to his mountain lair. Englehorn and the rest of the crew rescue what is left of the rescue party from the pit of giant insects, and as Jack decides to continue to search for Ann, Carl decides to capture Kong. Jack goes to Kong's lair, waking him. As Kong fights a swarm of flying Terapusmordax, Ann and Jack escape by grabbing the wing of one of the bats and then jumping into a river. They arrive at the village wall with the angry Kong following them, and Ann becomes distraught by what Carl plans to do. Kong bursts through the gate and struggles to get her back, but he is eventually knocked out by chloroform.

In New York around Christmas, Carl presents Kong — the Eighth Wonder of the World on Broadway, starring Baxter and an imprisoned Kong. Ann has become an anonymous chorus girl and a double of her is no replacement in Kong's eyes. Camera flashes from photographers enrage the gorilla. Kong breaks free from his chrome-steel chains and chases Jack across town, where he encounters Ann again. They share a quiet moment on a frozen lake in Central Park, before the army attacks. Kong climbs with Ann onto the Empire State Building, where he fights off planes sent to attack him, downing three of them. Ultimately, Kong is hit by several bursts of gunfire from the surviving planes, and gazes at a distraught Ann for the last time before falling off the building to his death. Ann is greeted by Jack, and the reporters gather around Kong's corpse. Carl takes one last look and says, "It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast."

Cast

  • Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow: A struggling vaudeville actress who is desperate for work. Carl Denham discovers her attempting to steal an apple from a fruit stand. She is a big fan of writer Jack Driscoll, but knows nothing about acting in a movie. During the course of the voyage, she falls in love with Driscoll. She also forms a special relationship with Kong.
  • Jack Black as Carl Denham: A film director who obtained the map to Skull Island. Due to his desperate situation — involving debts and theft — Carl is obsessive, slowly losing his moral compass.
  • Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll: A scriptwriter who falls for Ann. He is on the voyage mistakenly, when he delivers 15 pages of script to Denham, who delays him as the Venture begins its voyage.
  • Thomas Kretschmann as Captain Englehorn: The German Captain of the SS Venture.
  • Colin Hanks as Preston: Denham's neurotic but honest personal assistant.
  • Jamie Bell as Jimmy: A boy, found on the SS Venture, wild and abandoned. He is a kleptomaniac and views Hayes as a father figure.
  • Andy Serkis as Kong (motion capture and voice): A 7.5-metre (25 ft) gorilla who is around 120–150 years old.[3] He is the last of his species, Megaprimatus kong.
  • Andy Serkis as Lumpy: The ship's cook, barber and surgeon. He warns Denham about rumors he has heard about Skull Island and Kong. He joins the search for Ann but is killed in the insect pit.
  • Evan Parke as Ben Hayes: Englehorn's first mate and a friend of Lumpy, who leads Ann's rescue mission due to his army training and combat experience gained during World War I. He is killed after Kong throws him against a rock wall.
  • Kyle Chandler as Bruce Baxter: An actor who specialises 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 camera man. He is eaten by a Venatosaurus.
  • Lobo Chan as Choy: Lumpy's best friend and a janitor on the Venture, who falls to his death during the log scene.
  • Craig Hall as Mike: Denham's soundman for the journey. He is the first person to be killed when the Skull Island natives spear him.
  • William Johnson as Manny: an elderly vaudevillian actor who befriends Ann Darrow at the beginning of the picture.
  • Mark Hadlow as Harry: a struggling vaudevillian actor.
  • Jed Brophy and Todd Rippon cameoed as crew members.

Production

Development

Peter Jackson was a nine-year-old in the New Zealand town of Pukerua Bay when he first saw the 1933 version of King Kong. He was in tears in front of the TV when Kong slipped off the Empire State Building.[4] At age 12 he tried to recreate the film using his parents' super-8 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.[5] In 1996, he developed a version that was in pre-production for 6–7 months, but the studio cancelled it.[6] This is most likely because of the release of Mighty Joe Young and Godzilla the same year.[5] During this time Jackson had achieved the designs of the Brontosaurus and the Venatosaurus.[5] No casting was ever done, but he had hoped to get George Clooney and Robert De Niro for the roles of Jack Driscoll and Carl Denham, respectively.[7]

He then began work on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.[8] With the overwhelming box office and critical success of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Universal contacted him during production of the second film,[5] and he was paid $20 million USD to direct this film, the highest salary Hollywood ever paid a director.[9]

Screenplay development

Jackson has stated that the script significantly changed between the 1996 and 2005 drafts. He described his first rough draft as a "tongue-in-cheek comedic film with elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark and other films", and in retrospect he is glad that Universal pulled the plug on this version of the film, as he was able to rework the screenplay into something better.[5]

In Jackson's original 1996 draft of the script, Ann was the daughter of famed English archaeologist Lord Linwood Darrow exploring ancient ruins in Sumatra.[10] 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 the mainland of Asia. Instead of a playwright, Jack was the first mate and an ex-First World War fighter pilot still struggling with the loss of his best friend, who had been killed in battle during a World War I prologue.[10] Herb the camera-man is the only supporting character in the original draft who made it to the final version. The fight between Kong and the three T. rex also changed from the original draft. In the draft, Ann is actually caught in the T. 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.

The rewriting of the script between 1996 and 2005 involved basing the characters more closely on the 1933 ones, but adding more detail (the screenplay takes no material from the 1976 version).[11] The process began with a nine minute animatic created by Jackson and shown to the writing team, causing Philippa Boyens to cry[citation needed]. Jackson, alongside Christian Rivers and his team, created animatics for all the action sequences which wound up becoming the first stage in animation. The Empire State Building animatic in particular, was completely replicated in the final film.[5]

Pre-production

Andy Serkis in his Kong bodysuit

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.[12] Andy Serkis, who modelled his movement, went to the London Zoo to watch the gorillas, but was unsatisfied. He ended up going to Rwanda to observe mountain gorillas in the wild with a company called Rainbow Tours. The resulting Kong is entirely a special effect, who acts and moves very much like a real gorilla.[13]

Apart from Kong, Skull Island is inhabited by dinosaurs and other large fauna. Inspired by the works of Dougal Dixon, the designers imagined what 65 million years or more of isolated evolution might have done to dinosaurs.[5]

Difficulties

The film's budget climbed from an initial US$150 million to a record-breaking $207 million,[14] making it at one point the most expensive film yet made. Universal Pictures 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.[15]

Other difficulties included Peter Jackson's decision to change composers from Howard Shore to James Newton Howard seven weeks before the film opened.[16]

Release

The marketing campaign for King Kong started in full swing on June 27, 2005, when the teaser trailer made its debut, first online at the official Volkswagen website at 8:45 p.m. EST, then 8:55 p.m. EST across media outlets owned by NBC Universal (the parent of Universal Studios), including NBC, Bravo!, CNBC and MSNBC. That trailer appeared in theatres attached to War of the Worlds, which opened on June 29.[3]

Jackson also regularly published a series of 'Production Diaries', which chronicled the making of the film. The diaries started shortly after the DVD release of The Return of the King as a way to give Jackson's The Lord of the Rings fans a glimpse of his next project. These diaries are edited into broadband-friendly installments of three or four minutes each. They consist of features that would normally be seen in a making-of documentary: a tour of the set, a roving camera introducing key players behind the scene, a peek inside the sound booth during last-minute dubbing, or Andy Serkis doing his ape movements in a motion capture studio.[17]

A novelisation of the movie and a prequel entitled The Island of the Skull was also written. A multi-platform video game entitled Peter Jackson's King Kong was released, which featured an alternate ending. There was a hardback book entitled The World of Kong, featuring artwork from Weta Workshop to describe the fictional bestiary in the film.

Reception

The billboard at the Odeon Leicester Square premiere

With a take of $9.7 million on its Wednesday opening day, and with an opening weekend gross of $50.1 million, King Kong's opening numbers did not meet expectations of Universal Pictures executives. Its opening weekend of $50.1 million, while good for most movies, fell short of the inflated expectations that preceded the film.[18]

However, King Kong was able to hold its audience in the subsequent holiday weeks and ended up becoming a domestic hit, grossing $218.1 million at the North American box office (putting it in the top five grossing films of 2005 domestically).[19] King Kong fared much better in the international market, as it grossed $332.4 million outside North America, leading to a worldwide total of $550.5 million, that not only put it in the top five grossing films of 2005 worldwide,[20] but also helped the film bring back more than two and half times its production budget.

Other factors also affect a film's profitability besides box office sales, such as the DVD sales. King Kong, sold over $100 million worth of DVDs in the largest six-day performance in Universal Studios history.[21] As of April 3, 2006, King Kong has sold more than 7.5 million DVDs, accumulating over $140 million worth of sales numbers, domestically alone.[22] As of June 25, 2006 King Kong has generated almost $38 million from DVD rental gross.[23] As well, in February 2006, Universal received $26.5 million from TNT/TBS and ABC for the television rights to the film.[24]

Thus, despite the film's inauspicious start at the box office, King Kong turned out to be very profitable. Ticket and DVD sales combined, the film earned well over $700 million,[25][26] becoming the fourth-highest grossing movie in Universal Pictures history.

Critical reaction

King Kong received a favourable critical response, garnering an 84% "Certified Fresh" approval rating among 'T-Meter Critics', and a 79% rating among 'Top Critics' on Rotten Tomatoes.[27] The most common criticisms of the film were due to excessive length, lack of pace, over-use of slow motion, and some obvious use of CGI effects. Positive critical reviews regarded it as one of the few good epics and all-round best movies of 2005. Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars, and listed it as the 8th best film of 2005.[28] Similarly, King Kong has been included in many critics' Top Ten of 2005 lists.[29] The film received four Academy Award nominations for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, Hammond Peek), Sound Editing, and Art Direction, winning all but the last.[30][31] Entertainment Weekly called the depiction of Kong the most convincing computer generated character in film in 2005.[32] Some criticised the film for retaining racist stereotypes present in the original film, though it was not suggested that Jackson had done this intentionally.[33] King Kong ranks 450th on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[34]

Future

Possible 3-D release

Peter Jackson has expressed his desire to remaster the film in 3-D at some point in the future.[35] Jackson was also seen shooting with a 3-D camera at times during the shoot of King Kong.[36]

Cinematic and literary allusions

  • Jamie Bell's character is repeatedly shown reading Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, a novel about a journey into a primitive land and mankind's exploitation of fellow man.
  • Jack Black and critics have noted Carl Denham's similarity to Orson Welles.[37]
  • When Jack Driscoll is searching for a place to sleep in the animal storage hold, a box behind him reads Sumatran Rat Monkey — Beware the bite! – a reference to the creature that causes mayhem in Peter Jackson's film Braindead (1992)[38] (in that film, the rat monkey is described as only being found on Skull Island).

References to earlier versions of King Kong

  • Fay Wray, the original Ann Darrow, was asked by Peter Jackson to do a brief cameo in which she would utter the film's final line: "It was beauty killed the beast." At first she flatly refused, but then seemed to consider the possibility. However, she died shortly after her meeting with Jackson.[37] The line ultimately went to the character of Carl Denham, as in the original.
  • An ad for Universal Pictures is visible while Kong is tearing up Times Square. In the original film, an ad for Columbia Pictures appeared in the same spot, and the production designers replicated it, but Columbia asked for a large amount of money for its use, so effects artists replaced it.[38]
  • When Denham is considering who to play the part before meeting Ann, he suggests "Fay", but his assistant Preston replies, "She's doing a picture with RKO." Music from the 1933 original is heard, and Denham mutters, "Cooper, huh? I might have known." Fay Wray starred in the 1933 film, which was directed by Merian C. Cooper and released by RKO.[38]
  • When Carl Denham calls Bruce Baxter and Ann Darrow to film a scene on the deck of the ship, the shot is essentially identical to a scene between Ann and Jack Driscoll in the 1933 version.
  • In the original film, Merian C. Cooper made up an "Arabian proverb" about "beauty and beast". The 2005 remake repeats the fake proverb.[38]
  • Kong's New York stage appearance looks very much like a re-enactment of the sacrifice scene of the 1933 film, including the posts the 'beauty' is tied to and the nearly identical performance and costumes of the dancers. In addition, the music played by the orchestra during that scene is the original 1933 score by Max Steiner.[38]
  • The 1933 film featured an extended sequence in which several members of the party were devoured by massive spiders and insects after being shaken off a log into a ravine by Kong. This scene was pulled before release when Cooper decided it slowed the film down. Peter Jackson recreated the scene for the 2005 remake. He also paid homage to the spider pit sequence by recreating the scene using stop motion photography, which he included as an extra for the deluxe DVD release of the original 1933 film.
  • The battle between Kong and the final T. rex is almost move-for-move like the last half of the fight between Kong and the T. rex in the original 1933 film, right down to Kong playing with the dinosaur's broken jaw and then standing, beating his chest and roaring victoriously.[38]
  • After the crew captures Kong on the beach, Denham speaks a line from the 1933 film: "The whole world will pay to see this! We're millionaires, boys! I'll share it with all of you. In a few months, his name will be up in lights on Broadway! KONG, THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD!" [38]
  • In the original film, director and co-director Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack appear in cameos as the pilot and rear-gunner who shoot Kong. In the 2005 film, Jackson plays one of the gunners; the pilot is played by Rick Baker, who played Kong (in a rubber suit) in the 1976 remake.[38]

Soundtrack

King Kong: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by James Newton Howard
Released December 6, 2005
Recorded 2005
Genre Soundtrack
Length 74:27
Label Decca Records
James Newton Howard chronology
Batman Begins
(2005)
King Kong
(2005)
Freedomland
(2006)

King Kong: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was composed by James Newton Howard. Originally Howard Shore, who worked for Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings, was to compose the score for the film and recorded several completed cues before he was removed from the project by Jackson. Shore makes a cameo appearance as the conductor in the theatre from which Kong escapes. The film's record album was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.[citation needed]

Track listing
  1. "King Kong" – 1:09
  2. "A Fateful Meeting" – 4:16
  3. "Defeat Is Always Momentary" – 2:48
  4. "It's In the Subtext" – 3:19
  5. "Two Grand" – 2:34
  6. "The Venture Departs" – 4:03
  7. "Last Blank Space On the Map" – 4:43
  8. "It's Deserted" – 7:08
  9. "Something Monstrous… Neither Beast Nor Man" – 2:38
  10. "Head Towards the Animals" – 2:48
  11. "Beautiful" – 4:08
  12. "Tooth and Claw" – 6:17
  13. "That's All There Is…" – 3:26
  14. "Captured" – 2:25
  15. "Central Park" – 4:36
  16. "The Empire State Building" – 2:36
  17. "Beauty Killed the Beast (Part I)" – 1:59
  18. "Beauty Killed the Beast (Part II)" – 2:22
  19. "Beauty Killed the Beast (Part III)" – 2:14
  20. "Beauty Killed the Beast (Part IV)" – 4:45
  21. "Beauty Killed the Beast (Part V)" – 4:13

The music played during the vaudeville sequence at the beginning of the movie is the classic song "I'm Sitting on Top of the World" by Al Jolson. However, it has not been included in the original soundtrack album.

Home media

King Kong was released on DVD on March 28, 2006 in the United States. The three versions that came out were single disc fullscreen, single disc widescreen and a 2-Disc Widescreen Special Edition. The second disc of the Special Edition contains the remainder of almost all the KongisKing.net production diaries not contained on the Peter Jackson's Production Diaries DVD set. The only missing episode is "13 Weeks To Go" which contained footage of Howard Shore recording the original score. It is still available on the website. King Kong was not released on VHS in the United States, but it was exclusively released on VHS in Germany.

The 3 disc Deluxe Extended Edition was released on November 14, 2006 in the U.S.A.,[39] and on November 1 in Australia.[40] Thirteen minutes were put back into the film, and a further 40 minutes presented alongside the rest of the special features. The film was spread onto the first two discs with commentary by Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens, and some featurettes on Discs 1 and 2, whilst the main Special Features are on Disc 3. Another set was released, including a WETA figurine of a bullet-ridden Kong scaling the Empire State Building, roaring at the army with Ann in hand. The extended film amounts to 201 minutes in total.[41]

A special HD DVD version of King Kong was part of a promotional pack for the release of the external HD DVD Drive for the Xbox 360. The pack contained the HD DVD drive, the Universal Media Remote and King Kong on HD DVD.[42] It was also available separately as a standard HD DVD.[43] The film's theatrical and extended cuts were released together on Blu-ray Disc on January 20, 2009.[44]

References

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  42. ^ Xbox.com
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