The 1933 original King Kong was a landmark film. It effectively started the monster movie trend and brought groundbreaking stop motion animation effects to the masses, inspiring the likes of Ray Harryhausen. The combination of monster effects and a genuine human story vaulted the monster movie into something genuinely cinematic. It had romance, man vs. nature, the plight of the misunderstood, human nature—simply everything. The 1976 version was a decent film but updating it the way they did made it very much a product of its time. Things like the use of the twin towers, the mission for oil drilling, and its focus on humor, take away from the grandness of the story and contribute to the campiness of it.
The 2005 version gives the story the utmost respect and in effect, makes it a timeless classic. All the power and magic of the original is there but in stunning color and light. The level of detail, which can only be appreciated by watching the behind the scenes features, serves to completely blend the performances, animation, and effects into a seamless and believable environment spanning from 1933 New York to the fictitious tropical jungle of Skull Island.
Throughout the film there are references and homages to the original nestled into the fabric of the story. The ship has artifacts from the original as wall hangings and decor, some of the big monster battles are frame for frame copies of the original, and the show in NYC uses the costumes and music of the original skull island natives.
The bond between Ann Darrow and Kong, which is at the heart of the story, is much more apparent than it was in 76 and much more relatable than it could be in 33. Kong’s ability to communicate the whole gamut of human emotion allows us to see him for the misunderstood fish out of water that he is. And like a depression error Frankenstein, we sympathize with him for simply wanting what we all want, someone to share this world with.
This version stands on its own whether you’ve seen previous ones or not. It either pleases you with its rendition of familiar material, or it introduces you to it with all the power and mystique of the original.