King Kong is a 2005 remake of the 1933 film of the same name about a fictional giant ape called Kong. The film was directed by Peter Jackson and stars Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, Jack Black as Carl Denham, Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll and, through performance capture, Andy Serkis as Kong. Serkis also played Lumpy, the galley chef on the SS Venture.
In 1933, Great Depression-era New York City, actress Ann Darrow has just lost her job at the local theatre and is recruited by film director Carl Denham because of the presence of her favourite writer Jack Driscoll. They set sail to a remote Indian Ocean island known as Skull Island, inhabited by prehistoric creatures and the mighty giant gorilla Kong.
The film's budget climbed from an initial $150 million US 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, Kong made domestic and worldwide grosses that eventually added up to $550 million, becoming the fourth-highest grossing movie in Universal Studios history. Strong DVD sales also added over $100 million to the grosses. It also received positive reviews, with some considering it one of the all-round best movies of 2005, though it has been criticized for its length at three hours and eight minutes (while a three-disc extended DVD edition actually increases this to over three hours and twenty minutes). It won Academy Awards for visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing.
Carl and his crew explore the island, with a deserted village against a wall, but they are attacked by the vicious natives. Mike, the sound technician, is speared, one of the sailors has his head crushed, and Jack is knocked out. Ann screams, and a roar beyond the wall responds. The matriarch vows to sacrifice her to "Kong", a gorilla. Englehorn and his crew break up the attack and return to the damaged ship. They finally lighten the load to steer away, until Jack discovers Ann has been kidnapped. On the island, Ann is hung from a balcony to the other side of a valley. The crew comes armed, but are too late. Carl sees the gorilla that has taken her. Englehorn gives them 24 hours to find her. In the meantime, Ann discovers the remains of the previous sacrifices, and stabs Kong's hand with her ceremonial necklace to no avail. Kong takes Ann into the jungles of the island.
Captain Englehorn organizes a rescue party to find Ann and hunt down the beast. The rescue party is caught up in a Venatosaurus pack's hunt of Brontosaurus, and four of them are killed while Jack and the rest of the crew survive. Ann manages to entertain Kong with juggling and dancing, but he does not kill her when she refuses to continue. He leaves her. The rest of the rescue party come across a swamp. It is here that Bruce Baxter 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 Tyrannosaurus), and takes her up to his mountain lair. Englehorn and the rest of the crew rescue whomever 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 comes to Kong's lair, and disturbs him from his slumber. As Kong fights a swarm of giant bats, Ann and Jack escape by grabbing the wing of a Terapusmordax and then jumping to a river. They arrive at the village wall with the angry Kong following them, where Ann becomes distraught by what Carl plans to do. Kong bursts through the gate and struggles to get her back, but he is knocked out by chloroform.
In New York around Christmas, Carl presents Kong - the Eighth Wonder of the World on Broadway. Ann has become an anonymous chorus girl and a double of her is no replacement for Kong. 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 onto the Empire State Building, where he makes his last stand against the Curtiss Helldivers, 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 flood to Kong's corpse. Carl takes one last look and says, "It wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast."
Peter Jackson has stated that the script significantly changed between the 1996 and 2005 drafts. 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. 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 a cult religion that once thrived on the mainland of Asia, and all trace of the cult was wiped out, except for the few on the island. 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 is killed in battle during a World War I prologue. Herb the camera-man was the only supporting character in the original draft who made it to the final version. Another difference was that Ann was actually caught in the V. rex's jaws in the Kong/3 V. rex fight. According to the draft, Ann was wedged in the mouth and slashed by the teeth; after the fight, Kong got her out but by some reason Ann got a fever, from which she recovered. (It did not say how Ann got it, but it was almost unmistakably an infection in one of her cuts). Jackson's first rough draft was described as a "tongue-in-cheek comedic film with elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark and other films," according to Jackson himself. Originally, he wanted a comical "monkey-farce" to be released, but he credits Universal for pulling the plug, as he was able to rework things into what ended up on screen.
Other difficulties included the rewriting of the script between 1996 and 2005, adding more character development to the 1933 story and acting as though the 1976 version never existed. The process began with a nine minute animatic created by Peter Jackson and shown to the writing team, causing Philippa Boyens to cry. 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.
Peter Jackson decided early on that he did not want Kong to act human, and so they studied hours of gorilla footage. 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, but he acts and moves very much like a real gorilla.
Apart from Kong, Skull Island is also inhabited by dinosaurs and other large fauna. However, though they may look similar, they are not the familiar species. Inspired by the works of Dougal Dixon, the designers have imagined what 65 million years or more of isolated evolution would have done to the dinosaurs. The creatures can said to be presented as more scientifically accurate than those portrayed in the 1933 version. However, it can also be argued that they are less accurate to the palaeontology of 2005 than the dinosaurs from the original were accurate to the palaeontology of 1933. The names of these and hundreds of other beasts are found in the book The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island.
The film's budget climbed from an initial $150 million US to a record-breaking $207 million, making it at one point the most-expensive film yet made. Universal Studios only agreed to such an outlay after seeing a screening of the unfinished film, to which executives responded enthusiastically. In addition, it is estimated that marketing and promotion costs were about $60 million. Production had difficulties, such as Peter Jackson's decision to change composers from Howard Shore to James Newton Howard seven weeks before the film opened. Also, the film was originally set to be 135 minutes, but 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.
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. The production diaries were released on DVD on December 13, 2005, one day before the U.S. release of the film. This was one of the first occasions in which material that would normally be considered supplementary to the DVD release of a film, was not only released separately, but done so in a prestige format; the Production Diaries came packaged in a box with a set of prints and a replica 1930s-era clipboard. It is also the first time such material was published prior to the release of the film.
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. A number of spin-offs from the remake's franchise include books, novels, comics and video games.
With a take of $9.7 million box office on its opening day, and an opening weekend of $50.1 million, King Kong failed to live up to its pre-release hype, and did not meet expectations of Universal Studios executives. Some media outlets even considered the film to be a flop after its weak opening weekend, as at that point it was not on pace to make back its $207 million budget. Its opening weekend of $50.1 million, while good for most movies, fell short of the inflated expectations caused by the movie's enormous budget and marketing campaign.
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). King Kong fared much better in the international market, as it grossed $332.437 million outside North America, leading to a worldwide total of $550.517 million (putting it in the top five grossing films of 2005 Worldwide).
Other factors also affect a film's profitability besides box office sales, such as the DVD sales. King Kong, as of April 3, 2006, sold more than 7.2 million DVDs, over $100 million in the largest six-day performance in Universal Studios history. As of June 25, 2006 King Kong has generated almost $38 million from DVD rental gross.
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, becoming the fourth-highest grossing movie in Universal Pictures history.
The musical score for King Kong 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. James Newton Howard joined the project with literally weeks to score and record more than three hours of music. Shore still makes a cameo appearance as the ill-fated conductor in the theatre from which Kong escapes. The film's record album was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
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.
On Tuesday, June 27, 2006, www.kongisking.net reported that Spanish DVD website Zonadvd officially confirmed the release date of an extended edition of King Kong on November 15, 2006. It was also said that three discs would be included in the set. Unseen features, including deleted scenes, commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, and so on are sure to follow (these features were previously mentioned before).
The 3 disc Deluxe Extended Edition was released on November 14th 2006 in the U.S.A., and on November 1st in Australia. Thirteen minutes were put back into the film, and a further 40 minutes presented alongside the rest of the special features. The extended edition also has over 230 new visual effects shots. The film was spread onto the first two discs with commentary by Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens, and some featurettes on Disc 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.
The second major addition is a scene in the swamp where the rescue team on two rafts are first surrounded by swarms of Scorpiopede creatures, before an attack from an enormous serpentine Piranhadon fish. Three men are killed and Jack almost drowns. Carl captures the last death on camera (to the disgust of Lumpy) which he takes great pains to retain in the chaos. After exiting the swamp, Lumpy shoots an approaching sound in the thick foliage. Jack believes he has shot Ann, which turns out to be a large bird similar to a giant Moa. The insect pit sequence is extended with footage of the characters climbing out of the pit, notably including a monologue from Carl about the point of death, Jimmy finding Hayes's body and taking his cap to remember him, and Bruce Baxter killing more insects. There is also more film of Kong rampaging the native village. Kong chasing Jack's cab is extended. During the army's attack on King Kong, he tramples a van containing a man who issues the fire command, and also knocks a van, with a commander insulting Kong, out of his way. The rest of the deleted scenes have unfinished effects, and are not incorporated into the film, but remain on the DVD set with individual introductions by Peter Jackson.