Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays

Bigger than life: Giant problems in the movies

Some problems are bigger than others. Jack faces some pretty big ones in Jack the Giant Slayer. Giant problems, you might say, which dwarf mere human concerns both figuratively and literally. An update of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” this fantasy adventure follows a tradition that goes back to David and Goliath: the mortal man taking on the colossally big and strong enemy. Hollywood has replayed that showdown in various iterations for almost as long as there have been movies. Because what’s more impressive than man versus mammoth monster? Here are a few of the greatest, grandest and most unusual giants to rise up on two legs and challenge mankind in the movies, from King Kong to the mutant at the heart of “The Amazing Colossal Man” to the mythical gods and monsters brought to life by Ray Harryhausen.

King Kong meets Fay Wray

King Kong (1933)

The 800-ton gorilla of movie giants.

The king of the jungle of creature features, King Kong is still the reigning heavyweight champ of movie giants. In the days of modern special effects, the stop-motion giant gorilla may not be realistic to contemporary eyes, but Depression-era audiences had seen nothing like it before. The 18-inch creation of modeling clay and rabbit fur was transformed into a fully realized character in his own right, brought to life with personality and passion by the craft of stop-motion animation godfather Willis O’Brien. Movie magic elevates this puppet into a towering beast who fights giant predators in primeval battles over blond beauty Fay Wray and wreaks havoc in the urban jungle of New York to find her once again. Like Frankenstein’s monster, Kong was ostensibly the monster of the movie, but the power of his presence made him a tragic hero in the greatest beauty-and-the-beast tale in the movies.

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