Film Review: King Kong

28/06/2010

With good reason King Kong is considered one of the greatest fantasy films of all time. Although it has aged in some ways, the film still delivers the element of spectacle so fundamental to this type of picture.

Film director Carl Denham takes his cast and crew, including his new female lead Ann Darrow, to a mysterious island to film scenes for his upcoming movie. Unforeseeable to even Denham himself is that the giant gorilla Kong will take a shine to Ann…

Perhaps more emphasis has been placed on the special effects and set pieces of this 1933 film, however equally as significant is the narrative and pacing. The film excels at building tension, until the exciting moment of the reveal. Screenwriters James Creelman and Ruth Rose cleverly expose little about where the group are heading or what they can expect, initially. Though prior to their arrival on the island, Denham speaks about the myth of Kong, this does not detract from his colossal first appearance later in the film.

In building the anticipation, and sustaining tension, the score is an incredibly effective device. The ominous repetitive drum, and the rest of Max Steiner’s score, used in pivotal scenes drives home the precariousness of the crew’s situation. The pioneering stop-motion techniques used in the film, along with the other effects, must have been thrilling for the 1933 audience.

The relationship between Ann and John Driscoll is warming, despite his initial dislike of not only her, but all women. It serves as a sharp contrast to Kong’s affection for Ann; a tragic situation that only generates sympathy for the monster. As Ann, Fay Wray cements herself as the original scream queen.

The elements of misogyny and racism evident in the film may sit uncomfortably or amuse modern audience members, but serves as a reminder that this film was produced in a very different age. Nonetheless, even today King Kong stands tall as a classic, and as both an influence to many filmmakers and a benchmark that fantasy films of this nature should be measured against.

King Kong was shown at the British Film Institute, as part of the Screen Epiphanies season. It was introduced by Ray Harryhausen.

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Film Review: Clash of the Titans

13/04/2010

Seeing the film a few weeks after its release, Clash of the Titans is actually an enjoyable enough movie. Granted, this may be the case as expectations were significantly lowered by the considerable amount of negative press and reviews the film has received.

Louis Leterrier’s version makes a number of changes to the plot from the 1981 original. Sam Worthington’s Perseus no longer seeks the hand of Andromeda; instead he seeks revenge for the murder of his adoptive family by Hades. The focus in this 2010 remake is firmly on Perseus and the human characters, a lot less time is given to the gods, some of whom are ousted altogether from the film. The story, then, becomes very human, and similar to many other revenge quest themes in fantasy and other genres. In retrospect, the presence of the gods in the original film separated it from similar fare; something this remake perhaps should have kept intact.

The performances in the film are passable, with Gemma Arterton featuring as the love interest more for her looks than anything else. As villain Hades, Ralph Fiennes comes across as a little hammy, whilst Worthington’s changeable accent is distracting.

One of the main criticisms of the film is the use of 3D, which was tacked on in the post-production. Whilst one may expect it to look shoddy, in actual fact it is not that noticable. The use of 3D doesn’t necessarily detract from the film, but it doesn’t really add anything either.

As an epic fantasy adventure, Clash of the Titans is entertaining fare. Whilst younger audience members will most likely enjoy the picture, especially the action sequences, for older viewers this remake may bring about a nostalgia for the original. For all its blockbuster special effects, this remake can’t quite replicate Ray Harryhausen’s quaint but much-loved creations.