Who makes the best monsters? It used to be a battle between the actors and the model-makers. Not any more. Perhaps inspired by Boris Karloff in King of the Kongo (1929), special effects wizards Willis O’Brien and Marcel Delgado created the original stop-motion King Kong in 1933. Their 50cm-high metal skeleton, covered in rabbit fur, stole centre stage for the FX workshop at RKO. It took another 40 stitched bearskins to build the model for the close-ups. For years, crafting monsters, like Stan Winston’s Predator, remained the domain of the workshops. As recently as 1993, models had a place on-screen – half the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were radio-controlled remotes. It’s just that we all got obsessed with the other 50 per cent – the monsters from CGI. After Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999, model-makers still got to develop monsters, but not to finish them. Weta Workshop’s Kong is probably the finest (and most expensive) movie monster ever made. It’s not just Kong’s perfect fur, light and shadow, but its movement through computer-generated land and cityscapes that sets it apart. But, if the magic was done in post production, don’t forget the guys who spent a year making the Kong suit for motion capture. A bit more input from them in this film and things non-digital might not have looked like an afterthought.
King Kong opens in UK cinemas on December 15, certificate 12A
By Mike Exon