Everything from costumes to stop-motion animation to animatronics to digital effects have been thrown at man's conquest to realistically portray a monkey. Which leads me (and you) to this simple question: Why? Why should we care about any of this? Why am I writing about this? Am I in the pockets of Big Gorilla? Man, how awesome would it be to be in the pocket of a big gorilla?
No, don't get distracted, David. I'm writing about this because if you took away every film that didn't involve a fake monkey, you'd still have a perfectly accurate record of cinematic progress. And that's weird, right? Why is that?
Here's a clue, funnypants: It's not just realism that gets augmented each time a monkey is recreated on screen. It's also the amount of empathy we put into their portrayal. The '30s King Kong spends roughly 15 seconds on the titular ape's death, never showing a human reaction to it. In the '70s, they spent 30 seconds mourning the moment, with the leading lady tearing up over the demise of the costumed performer. Then, in 2005, Peter Jackson spent a full minute making us watch the sadness of Kong's passing. And the 2017 film pretty much portrays the character as a complex anti-hero, not simply some mindless monster. As the technology got better, so did our desire to humanize the giant ape -- which can be said for the Planet Of The Apes movies as well.
20th Century Fox
To be fair, we wanted to see apes do a LOT of fun things in those films.