Old vs. New: King Kong
April 28th, 2010
Nostalgic Critic: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. And welcome to another edition of Old vs. New.
(The title card is shown, featuring an old man crossing his cane with a little boy's baseball bat, as dramatic music plays and lightning strikes)
NC: Who would have thought a story about a...giant monkey who falls in love with a woman, climbs buildings and smashes dinosaurs would be considered a classic?
(Footage of the original King Kong is shown along with the main theme of it playing in the background)
NC (vo): Well, King Kong certainly was. When it was released in 1933, it captured the world's interest with its groundbreaking effects and a timeless story about what happens when two threatening natures collide. Since then, there has been several remakes, but they sucked donkeys, and none of them have been considered on par with the original.
(Footage of Peter Jackson's King Kong is shown)
NC (vo): That is, until 2005, when Peter Jackson took his shot at telling the story. This is the only version that people say is not only as good as the original, but possibly better. But can it truly outdo the classic? Is there really enough there to keep it fresh and new while still staying true to the original?
NC: Well, let's find out! I.. never thought I'd be putting the position to say this, but it's monkey versus monkey here on Nostalgia Critic! This is Old vs. New King Kong!
(The opening sequence plays as we see pictures of the main characters from both movies fly into the jungle, while the theme songs of both movies play side by side)
NC: Well, we can't tell this beauty and the beast story without our beauty.
(An image of Kong is shown)
NC (vo): That is not the beauty. For most of us.
NC: I'm talking about our main actress who happens to play...the main actress. This is our Best Leading Lady.
Round 1 - Best Leading Lady
NC (vo): Now both of these films have good charismatic actresses. Each has to have her charming personality and good looks to match in order to tame the beast. They are certainly different, though. In the original, the character of Darrow is played by Fay Wray, who is constantly told that she doesn't belong onboard.
Ann Darrow (1933): I wish you wouldn't keep harping on that. It's very mean of you.
Driscoll (1933): Women-women just can't help being a bother. Made that way, I guess.
(The scene pauses and the bright red word "Douche" appears in front of the shot of Driscoll along with a loud, deep voiceover of NC saying the word)
NC (vo): Despite that, though, she still keeps an optimistic point of view.
Ann Darrow (1933): Don't you think the Skipper is a sweet old lamb?
Driscoll (1933): I'd hate to have him hear me say that.
NC (vo): In the newer version, she's played by Naomi Watts, who's a little more welcome down the ship, so she doesn't have to defend herself as much.
Herb: What a lovely dress.
Ann Darrow (2005): Oh! This old thing? I just threw it on.
NC (vo): Both have to play the classic screaming damsel in distress, and in terms of traditional screamers, Fay Wray is probably a little closer. But Watts' portrayal has a little bit more edge to it. In the original, King Kong just sort of likes Darrow. And even though they make her very positive and energetic, all she does around Kong is scream.
(A montage of clips of Fay Wray as Ann Darrow screaming is shown)
NC (vo): Granted, we don't want to see anything bad happen to her, but she doesn't do anything that would make Kong really like her. The newer one has to work for her survival. They indicate that Kong has killed dozens of sacrifices in the past, but because of her performance training, she's able to actually entertain Kong.
(That mentioned scene is shown. Kong pushes Ann over and over and laughs about it. Ann resists)
NC (vo): But even she has her limits.
Ann Darrow (2005): No! I said no! That's all there is.
NC (vo): She's standing up to a ten-storey gorilla! That takes BALLS!...or ovaries, I don't know, but it takes a lot of them! Because of this, the newer version truly does have the better lead. She's just more interesting and takes more chances. The original is good, too. You really do like her and don't wanna see her in danger, but the screaming just gets a little old after a while.
(Another montage of clips of Fay Wray as Ann Darrow screaming is shown)
NC: Yeah, scream some more. Maybe he'll finally go away.
(Another clip of Fay Wray as Ann Darrow screaming, and then a clip of a comedy show where two men scream is shown)
NC: Point goes to the new.
Ann Darrow (1933): Oh, dear. And I thought everything was going so nicely.
Round 1 Winner - 2005 Version
NC: But what about the supporting cast? Do they match up just as well as the lead? Well, here's the little people that literally got stepped on to make it to the top.
Round 2 - Best Supporting Cast
NC (vo): Let's start with the romantic lead. In the original, he's played by Bruce Cabot, a rough and gruff sailor who doesn't like the idea of women being onboard his ship. Now why would that be?
(A clip of the Village People performing "In the Navy" is shown)
Village People: In the Navy/Yes, you can sail the seven seas/In the Navy...
NC (vo): No, that's not it. In fact, he actually ends up falling in love with Darrow. Even if it is pretty...sporadic.
Driscoll (1933): If anything had happened to you.
Ann Darrow (1933): Then you wouldn't be bothered with having a woman on board.
Driscoll (1933): Say, I guess I love you.
NC: (mimics Jack) I've only known you for five minutes, but...unless a giant gorilla comes through the trees and steals you away, I think you're the one.
NC (vo): And granted, some of the dialogue is a little hokey, too. In fact, they even make fun of it in the remake. The lines they shoot for their movie are actually identical to the ones they say in the original. Except in the original, that was supposed to be the real dialogue.
Ann Darrow (1933): I think this is awfully exciting. I've never been on a ship before.
Driscoll (1933): I’ve never been on one with a woman before.
(A clip from the new version is shown, showing Ann filming a scene on the boat along with another actor, Bruce Baxter)
Ann Darrow (2005): I think this is awfully exciting! I’ve never been on a ship before.
Bruce Baxter (2005): I’ve never been on one with a woman before.
NC (vo): But for all the stereotypical machoness, he actually is pretty likeable. Sort of a tough guy with a soft heart sort of thing.
Ann Darrow (1933): Well, I was a little scared.
Driscoll (1933): Hm. I guess you weren't the only one.
NC (vo): In the new one, we get Adrien Brody, who is STRAIGHT UP BORING!
Jack Driscoll (2005): It was pure effluence.
Bruce Baxter (2005): I beefed up the banter.
Jack Driscoll (2005): Try to resist that impulse, hm?
NC (vo): I'm sorry, but he is just not interesting. I know they're trying to downplay the hero aspect and make him look like a normal boring guy, but you can still make him look like an interesting boring guy...if that makes any sense.
Jack Driscoll (2005): Why would I write a play for you? Isn’t it obvious? It’s in the subtext.
NC: By God, you're dull.
NC (vo): What about the crazy director that takes them on his voyage? Again, I prefer the original, played by Robert Armstrong. Mostly because if you looked at him, you wouldn't guess that he was an eccentric thrillseeker. He's very professional and sort of keeps to himself, which shrouds his character in a lot more mystery.
Weston (1933): But you've got a reputation for recklessness that can't be glossed over. And then you're so secretive.
Carl Denham (1933): Good lord, you talk as if I never brought anybody back alive.
NC (vo): When you see him, you think sort of a mad genius, a guy who can convince you to jump off the cliff if it would make the shot look good.
Ann Darrow (1933): What do I have to do?
Carl Denham (1933): Just trust me and keep your chin up.
NC (vo): He's very smooth, even if he is batshit insane. Jack Black, on the other hand, is a little too obvious. He always has his eyes bugging out and always seems to talk in an intense manner.
Preston (2005): No, Carl, you can’t do this!
Carl Denham (2005): Tell ‘em the studio’s pressured us into an early departure.
Preston (2005): It’s not ethical!
Carl Denham (2005): What are they gonna do, sue me? Huh?
NC (vo): Now granted, a lot of directors do act like that.
(A clip from Lost in Translation is shown)
Director: (speaking in Japanese) Cut! Cut! What difference does it make! Makes no difference! Don't have time for that! Got it, Bob-san? Just psych yourself up, and quick! Look straight at the camera. At the camera. And slowly. With passion. Straight at the camera. And in your eyes there's... passion. Got it?
Translator: More intensively.
Director: (in Japanese) *Suntory* time.
NC (vo): But for a voyage this crazy, you have to have the ability to convince people and make them trust you. But I don't get that from Black. I don't believe anyone would go with him on a crazy voyage. I don't know. Maybe I just can't trust anyone who is in Bio-Dome. That would take anybody's liability from me. The rest of the crew in the new version, though, are pretty memorable. I like Andy Serkis' cutthroat cook.
Lumpy (2005): The castaway - he spoke of a creature, neither beast nor man.
(A clip of a Popeye cartoon is shown)
Popeye: Yeah. Like, uh, I can hardly wait!
NC (vo): And I thought that Hayes guy was pretty mysterious, too. The rest of the crew in the original is pretty forgettable, you know, outside of the obvious racial stereotypes.
Charlie: Me not see Missy one, two hour. Look, sir! Me found on deck.
Englehorn: A native bracelet!
Charlie: Crazy black man been here!
(NC laughs awkwardly)
NC (vo): Speaking of which, that tribe is pretty silly-looking nowadays, isn't it? I'm sure it was impressive back then, but now it just looks silly. You'd come across more realistic natives in Gilligan's Island. The ones in the newer version are just fucking crazy, and a lot more intimidating.
(A clip from the remake is shown, showing Carl attempting to appease a native by showing chocolate)
Carl Denham (2005): Look, chocolate. You like chocolate?
(Right after the scene, we see furious native mob yelling, fighting and attacking Carl and his group. NC writes something on his palm)
NC: "Note to self: Chocolate means war."
NC (vo): Sort of a toss up, but I am going to go with the original, mostly because of the romantic lead and the film director. They're just bigger roles, so they soak up a lot more credit. And in this comparison, that adds up to a lot.
NC: Point goes to the old.
Carl Denham (2005): What are you, an idiot?
Round 2 Winner - 1933 Version
NC: And now we come to the effects.
Offscreen group: New version!
NC: Oh, shut up! You don't know it's gonna be the new version. I mean, remember. The effects back then with the original were groundbreaking...
Offscreen group: New version!
NC: Okay! Just take a look!
Round 3 - Best Visual Effects
NC (vo): Now I know what you're thinking. How can the effects in the original beat anything compared to the new? Well, to be honest, these are still very impressive effects for that time. And not only that, they had to get really creative to make them happen. Obviously, King Kong is stop-motion, but for the people, sometimes, they have to take still pictures and would animate them along with Kong. Other times, they would use a green screen. Other times, it was forced perspective. Other times, they would literally just build a giant Kong. That's a lot of creativity and a lot of hard work. The newer one is mostly computers. I mean, everything is computers nowadays. And don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean there's not a lot of hard work put into it, but it just gets a little bit tiring seeing CG effects over and over and over. And to be honest, they're not that spectacular. When I think of good CG effects, I think of something that either looks realistic like Gollum or The Headless Horseman, or something stylized like Sin City or Across the Universe. Here, I can always tell it's computers. Sometimes, there's models, but it's mostly computers. But, let's be honest...yeah. It does look a lot more realistic. Granted, I never really thought the creatures were there in the new one, but then again, I really never thought they were there in the original. I guess that's not really the idea of either film, though. We're not there to admire the effects, the effects are there to help the story. We don't have to believe the characters are really there, we just have to feel what they're going through. And both films do a very good job of that. But it is sort of obvious who the winner is, isn't it? The newer version. Though I still really admire the original for its creativity, and in my opinion, they're still pretty damn impressive.
NC: Point goes to the new.
Carl Denham (1933): Well, there's a good reason.
Round 3 Winner - 2005 Version
NC: And now we come down to the Eighth Wonder of the World himself. Which one had the better Kong? Which one did you feel more sorry for, and which one had more heart and soul? (Beat) I don't know. But I don't think either of them can compare to Amy.
(Clips from Congo are shown)
NC (vo): Nobody was more compassionate and heartfelt than her.
Amy (from Congo): Tickle me.
Round 4 - Best Kong
NC (vo): Now for me, this is the hardest part, because I really like both Kongs. And again, you think it's an effects thing, but it's really not. It's just that they're both really well portrayed. They both have a big heart and both fall in love with our main lead, but there are definitely some major differences. In the original, Kong is much more animalistic. The way he moves and the way he acts is much more like an actual ape. Okay, the movements aren't as quite as realistic, but the actions are. Look at the scene where he is trying to get this guy. You can see the wheels in his head are turning as he's trying to figure out how to nab him.
(A scene from the original is shown, showing Kong trying to figure out how to grab Driscoll)
NC (vo): This Kong also has a very blank expression. You can't always tell when he's happy or sad. Again, much like a real animal.
(Several scenes in the original focusing on Skull Island's creatures are shown)
NC (vo): In fact, the way a lot of these creatures move seems very animalistic. Again, it's not totally realistic, but you sense the survival techniques these creatures have. They react like predators who will stop at nothing until they stop their prey. Because of this, they're a lot more threatening and a lot more unpredictable.
(Footage of Kong in the remake, played by Andy Serkis, is shown)
NC (vo): The remake is a little different. They actually model Kong after a real actor, Andy Serkis. So you can very easily tell what emotion he's feeling at the time. For no dialogue, they get across a lot with this character, and you really get the idea about what he's going though whenever he's onscreen. In a sense, they sort of develop him a little bit more, and make him a little bit more humanistic. The only downside is that it's not very animal-like. Not that animals don't feel anything, I know they do, but they're creatures of instinct first.
(Photos of various animals are shown)
NC (vo): Plus, when you look at an animal, it's very hard to figure out what they're feeling or thinking. That's why so many of them are unpredictable.
(Back to footage from both versions)
NC (vo): Because of this, it's the blank expressions of the original Kong that I surprisingly have more emotion for. He just seems much more like a creature that was stolen from his natural environment. I guess it's because we don't know what he's thinking and he's probably not super-smart that we feel even more sorry for him. Look at that naive, dumbass smile. I feel so sorry for that chimp even before the bad things happen to him. And again, the new one is VERY good. But it seems a little bit more like a performance than an actual animal. It moves more like an animal, but doesn't act as much as an animal. And even though I feel sorry for him, I feel more sorry for the original. He just seems more helpless to me in some way. And in the end, you're always gonna feel more sorry for the more helpless creature.
NC: Point goes to the old.
Bruce Baxter (2005): What are you, a Bolshevik or something?
Round 4 Winner - 1933 Version
NC: Once again, the big deciding point is story. Which one told the tale of...ape meets girl better? This is Best Story!
Round 5 - Best Story
NC (vo): Both of these films have very similar stories, but the newer one seems to go into a lot more detail. In the original, everything is sort of vague, which I guess is the idea; surrounding everything about the adventure and mystery. In the new one, though, we get a lot more background. We see the deciding point from when the director goes to the island. We see Darrow's job before she tags along with him. And we spend quite a bit of a time on the boat before we even get to the giant ape. (Beat) TOO LONG! I became so fucking sick of this boat and these damn people on it! I know what they're trying to do. They're trying to hold themselves to that rule of Jaws where you wait an hour to show the monster, but this is way too fucking long! And half the people on the ship aren't that interesting, anyway, so you're just kind of stuck there! I mean, who's gonna entertain me? Adrien Brody?
NC: Look, I loved you in The Pianist, but you are BORING!
NC (vo): The original was much quicker into the point. There was certainly build-up, but not to the point where it got annoying and tedious. However, in the new one, we do get a better connection between Darrow and Kong. There's actually quite a few silent moments where you really see them make sort of a strange connection together. In the original, it's a bit more primal. It's a little bit more harsh and cold. The newer one seems to have a lot more heart than the original, but even that seems to go a little too far, like when she visits him in the city. Okay, I know she's trying to tame him and keep him under control, but then they go ICE SKATING! (Beat) That's just weird! How can I take that seriously? It's "Kong on Ice"! I keep expecting Mickey Mouse to pop out at any moment!
(An image of Mickey Mouse in an ice-skating outfit is pasted into the scene where Darrow and Kong play on ice)
NC (vo): Plus, there's just some all-around strange scenes in the new one, like how about when the director tells the writer exactly where they're going. This is one of the oddest things ever. It's totally over-the-top for no reason.
Carl Denham (2005): It has a local name, but I’m warning you, Jack, it doesn’t sound good. They call it...
(Jimmy eavesdrops on the conversation. The whole scene of Driscoll typing the filming location on the typewrtier is shown in extreme slow-motion, scary music playing, and close-ups of Jimmy, Driscoll and Denham. NC's face is also closed on as he is becoming curious and afraid at the same time)
Jack Driscoll (2005): (typing) S...K...U...L...L...Island.
(NC is shocked)
NC: Skull? Skull? You mean like that thing in my head? My God! (More scary and dramatic music plays) Skull...
Chekov (from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan): Oh, no!
Mexican Bystander (from Blazing Saddles): Santa Maria!
Luke Skywalker (from The Empire Strikes Back): NOOOO!
NC: NO! This can't be a secret any longer! The people must know!
(NC bursts through the door of his house and starts to scream and wave his arms as he runs across the street where he lives)
NC: SKULL! SKULL! SKUUUUUUUL!
(A scene from The Naked Gun 2 is shown, showing people panicking and becoming frantic. NC is now running across his street from another direction, still waving his arms)
NC: (high-pitched) SKUUUUUUUUUUUUL!!!
(Back to Naked Gun 2 footage, where Terence Baggett holds a book called "To Serve Man" and grabs a woman)
Baggett: It's a cookbook! It's a cookbook!
(Back to King Kong footage)
NC (vo): So, yeah. There's quite a few over-the-top scenes like that. But to be fair, there's a lot of over-the-top scenes in the original, too. But here's the difference. The original was made in the 30's, at a time when this was not considered that corny. This was made just a few years ago, and the corny scenes were corny even then. Like how about that guy who falls in slow-mo where everyone else moves regularly.
(The scene where Ann Darrow and her group are struggling to escape the natures is shown where a native man falls in slow-motion)
NC (vo): Why was his fall such a big deal? Was he the director's brother of something? How about some of those quirky over-the-top performances?
Ann Darrow (2005): Mr. Driscoll, if you don’t mind me saying - you don’t look at all like your photograph ... You see, I was afraid you might be one of those self-obsessed literary types. You know - the tweedy twerp with his nose in a book and his head up his -
(Jack Driscoll snaps his book closed. Ann turns around and her face drops as the "wah-wah" sound effect is heard)
NC (vo): Or how about that cutting frames trick that's never been fucking cool?! Little stuff like that really adds up in the long run. And even though there's a lot of really good things about the newer version, the original just tells the story better. There's no tricks, no Avant-garde or artsy way of showing things. It's just the straightforward story. So when everything is added up, it really does seem like that the original King Kong is the superior film.
NC: Point goes to the old! The better movie!
Luke Skywalker: NOOOO!
Round 5 Winner - 1933 Version
NC: So that's my Old vs New on King Kong. Stay tuned next week when I review Drop Dead Fred. (Sneers) It's a movie so bad that it will make you flip out of your skull. Ooh! I said "skull".
(The earlier scene from The Naked Gun 2 is shown again)
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
Baggett (off-screen): It's a cookbook! It's a cookbook!
Channel Awesome Tagline: Charlie: Crazy black man been here!