King Kong (1976) Vs. King Kong (2005)

In this feature where we take two movies with similar themes (or an original and a remake) and pit them against each other in different film-making categories to see which comes out on top! this time it’s a battle of Kong remakes!:

VS-King-Kong

King Kong (1976) trailer

King Kong (2005) trailer

Cast

King Kong (1976): Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Rick Baker, Corbin Bernsen, Joe Piscopo

King Kong (2005): Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jack Black, Andy Serkis, Kyle Chandler, Rick Baker

I like Adrien Brody and Naomi Watts just fine, and don’t really mind Jack Black as much as some, but Jeff Bridges is Jeff Bridges, and Jessica Lange looked hotter in King Kong than maybe anyone ever.

Jessica Lange King Kong shower

 

Point: King Kong (1976)

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Directing

King Kong (1976): John Guillermin (The Blue Max; The Towering Inferno; Shaft In Africa) does a serviceable job, I suppose. Everything is just kind of static, and the scenes that are supposed to be thrilling action sequences are actually just kind of boring. Plus, he was a notorious a-hole.

King Kong (2005): This was Peter Jackson’s (The Lord of the Rings; Bad Taste; Dead Alive) dream project, so he put his heart and soul into it (maybe a little too much, since the movie is 36 hours long). But at least the effort is there, unlike 1976, which seems like Guillermin just wanted to collect a check.

Point: King Kong (2005)

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Story

King Kong (1976): These are remakes of the same movie so the has the same basic story, but with a few changes. For the 1976 version, the people who find Kong are working for an oil company, with Jeff Bridges as a stowaway paleontolgist, and the damsel in distress (Dwan, possibly the worst name ever) is found floating in a life raft. A bit convoluted. Couldn’t they all have just been working for the oil company? Anyway, they bring Kong back on their tanker and exploit him for marketing purposes, which doesn’t work out.

King Kong (2005): This film’s story is much more true to the original, with the change of Jack Driscoll being a playwright instead of first mate on the ship, for no real reason. They go to the mysterious island to shoot a documentary and blah, blah, ape. How in the seven hells they get Kong back to the states on their relatively small ship is a confounding mystery. At least the 1976 ship was an enormous oil tanker the size of Poughkeepsie, so that made sense. Still, there are dinosaurs.

Point: King Kong (2005)

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Effects

King Kong (1976): While I appreciate the practical effects and myriad of miniatures, almost everything in this movie looks lousy. Rick Baker is unquestionably a legend, but the Kong costume isn’t great. I know it’s Baker in a suit, but it’s way too upright and Kong acts too human. The articulation of the mask is good, at least. There’s some really awful green (blue?) screen going on here, too. But kudos to Carlo Rambaldi for building a giant mechanical Kong, even though it’s only in the movie for a few seconds.

King Kong (2005): Andy Serkis’s motion-capture performance as Kong is really masterful, and he would go on to parlay that into more ape performances. But the dinosaur stampede sequence is notoriously awful, and for good reason. The actors couldn’t look less “there” if they were all tinted magenta and eating cereal in slow motion.

Point: King Kong (2005)

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Score

King Kong (1976): John Barry’s score sounds dangerous and imposing, kind of like a giant ape.

King Kong (2005): James Newton Howard’s score is nice, but nothing really stands out about it, and it weirdly sounds a lot like the Lord of the Rings score. In fact, I thought it was the same composer, but that was Howard Shore, as Brad pointed out. Too many Howards!

Point: King Kong (1976)

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Awards

King Kong (1976): Won: Special Achievement in Visual Effects (shared with Logan’s Run)
Nominated: Best Cinematography; Best Sound

King Kong (2005): Won: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing; Best Achievement in Sound Editing; Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Nominated: Best Achievement in Art Direction

Point: King Kong (2005)

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Legacy

King Kong (1976): Made into an awesome King Kong ride at Universal Studios Florida, which isn’t there anymore, replaced by The Mummy roller coaster, which is the tits.

King Kong (2005): Mostly negative. Everyone considered this movie too be too long and bloated, and the dinosaur stampede scene was widely ridiculed. As a result, King Kong kind of knocked Peter Jackson off his golden boy pedestal, and possibly shook his confidence, which is why The Hobbit movies aren’t that great. But it did help cement Andy Serkis’s status as a motion-capture superstar.

Point: King Kong (1976)

 

King-Kong-winner

It was a close one, and really could have gone either way, but the winner is King Kong (2005), mostly for Peter Jackson’s enthusiasm for the project against John Guillermin being a boring jerkmouth. If only it were trimmed down substantially, the 2005 Kong would probably be much more well-regarded than it is.

What do you think? Did we score the fight fair? Which movie won on your scorecard?

Posted in VS

23 thoughts on “King Kong (1976) Vs. King Kong (2005)

  1. I don’t know if I should try the 2005 one again. I saw it way back in seventh grade over aperiod of several days with obnoxious commentary. I’ve still yet to see the original, suffice to say.

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  2. Pingback: Reel Quick: Godzilla ’84 | Hard Ticket to Home Video

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