Tag Archives: King Kong

Very British Sci-Fi

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It is perhaps an indication of the renewed popularity of Doctor Who, that UKTV Drama has kicked off a new year with a daily teatime showing of some of the classic shows not in the omnibus format in which they used to show the programme at weekends, but as it was originally made in 25 minute episodes.

The one difference though is that whereas in the past they always started at the start of the colour era, with Jon Pertwee stories, this time they’re kicking off with Robot, Terrance Dicks reworking of King Kong – probably most obvious in the final episode – that marked the beginning of Tom Baker in the title role.

Although there are some really obvious bits of model work at times, it’s still quite an entertaining watch, including some classic bits of script that mark it out as very British, such as the conversation between the Brigadier and the Doctor about how Great Britain was the only possible choice as the country to hold the nuclear secrets of the superpowers…

So why start out at this point? The answer is fairly simple if you look at what comes up later in the first Tom Baker season. After The Ark in Space next week we then get a run of classic monsters.

First off is The Sontaran Experiment – monsters who are going to appear again in the next season of the new Doctor Who. Then we get the classic and fan favourite Genesis of the Daleks where the Doctor is sent back in time to destroy the Daleks before they are even created – where Terry Nation makes absolutely no attempt to hide who he based the creatures on – and where the Doctor makes a fateful decision. After that we have the Revenge of the Cybermen, which it has to be said, isn’t regarded by a classic by a lot of fans, and finally that season finished off with the first and only appearance of the Zygons – favourite monster of the current occupier of the TARDIS, David Tennant.

So compared to the modern series it may have some really dodgy special effects, and wobbly sets, but this was the era that was enough to inspire most of the current production team, and of course David Tennant himself, to the extent that more than a decade after it’s demise they brought back the series that is so successful now. If alternatively you’re only interested in “nu Whoâ€? as SFX christened it, you’ve only got a couple of weeks to wait before Torchwood returns on 16th January – this time with a pre-watershed re-edit to help in those homes where the content of the show was ruled unsuitable for the younger Who obsessives and they were banned from watching – and Doctor Who itself is due to return for a fourth series in the now familiar late spring/early summer run.

King Kong

Today we took advantage of the lack of snow here, and took a trip up to London to see King Kong, Peter Jackson’s remake of the original 1933 movie.

The trip very nearly didn’t get started, we turned up in pretty good time for the train, leaving about fifteen minutes before the train was due. However we had to go from Wokingham, due to the main line through Woking being closed for maintenance over the Christmas and New Year period. When we got to Wokingham there was one ticket window open, and a queue pretty well out the door, and at the front two people buying an annual season ticket, and not having filled out the relevant form correctly. It is worth noting at this point that through all of this one of the other staff members on the station was very slowly sweeping the platform – quite why he couldn’t open the other ticket window and help clear the backlog I don’t know. Anyway, once they had finished, including one return push to the front of the queue, the tickets for the next few people were sold pretty quickly, until with the train rolling in, and us still two from the front of the queue, the next person again asked for an annual season ticket. At this point rather than participate in the potential lynching that seemed to be brewing in the queue behind us, we decided to take the risk, and try and buy the tickets on the train, which thankfully was pretty straightforward.

We decided to go see the film at the Odeon Leicester Square, on the same digital screen on which we had seen Star Wars earlier in the year. This time around the stalls and royal circle were almost full when we bought tickets, so instead we opted for the rear circle where we could still get seats in the centre of the block. To some extent this proved to be a better location, as with the size of the screen, with a seat in the stalls you can’t actually take in the whole screen as it’s just so big!

The film was excellent. Although it has been criticised for it’s length, we thought that despite a run time of about three hours, it didn’t really seem too long. Compared to the original version , and the 1976 remake there was a lot more backstory before the action reaches Skull Island. The bulk of this film is actually the chase across the island, leading ultimately to the capture of Kong, although even in the New York finale there is time for some restbite, with a great sequence with Kong playing on the ice in Central Park. In fact through all the film the use of CGI rather than stop frame animation has allowed new or enhanced scenes, with multiple dinosaurs including a spectacular dino-stampede, and some scenes with giant insects that had Beth jumping out of her seat.

This actually brings me on to perhaps the biggest difference between this film and the earlier versions, the fact that through modern CGI techniques there is actually an actor – Andy Serkis – who ‘plays’ Kong. What this gives is much more of a character to the giant ape, and much more believability to the whole thing than the stop frame animation of the older versions can ever give. This together with the significantly increased screen time that he gets as a character gives a much more satisfying result. One other noticeable change is that Kong actually remains the same size during the whole movie – in the original he is noticably significantly bigger when climbing the Empire State Building.

The other important difference between this and the previous remake, which again helps with the believability is that Jackson returns the film to it’s original 1930’s timeframe, rather than reworking the plot for a modern setting. To some extent the idea of a barely known island is a lot more believable in a 30’s setting than in age when people are orbiting the planet from space!

All in all we thought it was a great film, and although as a technical achievement the special effects of the original film should be noted, in terms of telling a story, the 2005 version is by far the best.

Anyway, after seeing the film, we decided to have a meal before we headed home. As usual, the restaurants around Leicester Square were crazy with long waits for a table everywhere, so we took a wander down to the Texas Embassy where we had been for the recent Geek Dinner and sample their regular menu. We were lucky, as a table for two was available as we walked in – there were a number of bigger parties with just as long wait as up around Leicester Square. We were not disappointed with the food either, and despite the location, the price was comparable with a good restaurant around Reading. Certainly somewhere we will go back to another time.