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Mighty Joe Young (1998 film)

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Action, Adventure, Family

Initial DVD release
March 23, 1999

English, Swahili


Music director

United States

Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) movie poster

Release date
December 25, 1998 (1998-12-25)

(Jill Young),
Rade Serbedzija
(Andrei Strasser), (Gregg O'Hara), (Cecily Banks), (Garth), (Pindi)

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Survival is an instinct.

Mighty Joe Young is a 1998 American adventure film based on the 1949 film of the same name. It was directed by Ron Underwood and stars Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron. In the newer film's version, the ape is much larger than in the original. The film grossed $50.6 million in the United States against a production budget of $90 million.


Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) movie scenes

mighty joe young trailer movie 1998


Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) movie scenes

As a child, Jill Young witnesses the death of her mother, primatologist Ruth Young, and the mother of Joe, an infant mountain gorilla, at the hands of poachers led by Andrei Strasser, who loses his right thumb and trigger finger to Joe, swearing revenge.

Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) movie scenes

Twelve years later, Jill has raised Joe, now grown to a height of 15 feet (4.6 m) and weighing 2,000 pounds (910 kg). As a result, other gorillas will not accept him and they are both now living in relative peace until a wildlife refuge director, Gregg O'Hara, convinces Jill they would be safer from poachers if they relocated to the United States.

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The trio goes to Los Angeles, and win the hearts of the refuge staff at the conservancy, who put Jill in charge of Joe. Jill is approached by Strasser, who is now running a fraudulent animal preserve in Botswana, while actually selling animal organs on the black market. After seeing a news report about Joe, he is eager for revenge. At first Jill does not recognize Strasser, since Strasser's right hand is concealed in his coat pocket. He attempts to convince Jill that Joe would be better off in his wildlife refuge back in Africa. During a gala, Strasser's henchman, Garth, uses a poacher's noisemaker to scare Joe into a frenzy. Joe trashes the gala, with the intention of attacking Strasser, but is captured, and imprisoned in a concrete bunker.

Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) Mighty Joe Young Movie Review 1998 Roger Ebert

When Jill discovers that Joe may be euthanized, she accepts Strasser's offer. She and the refuge staff smuggle Joe out in a truck. Before their departure, Gregg has fallen in love with Jill and kisses her goodbye. On the way to the airport, Jill notices the half-glove covering Strasser's missing fingers and recognizes him. She fights Strasser and Garth, then jumps from the truck onto Hollywood Boulevard, leading to several automobile accidents. Joe sees her and tilts the truck over onto its side and flees.

Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) Mighty Joe Young Movie Poster 3 of 4 IMP Awards

Gregg discovers that Strasser is a poacher and goes after Jill and Joe. He finds Jill, who reveals to Gregg that Strasser killed her mother and now plans to kill Joe. They track Joe to a carnival where he is playfully wreaking havoc. Strasser arrives as well and attempts to shoot Jill, but Garth, appalled at Strasser's ruthlessness, turns against him and saves Jill, causing Strasser to misfire at a spotlight, starting a fire and causing the Ferris wheel to break down. After knocking Garth unconscious, Strasser attempts to kill Jill in person, but Joe sneaks up behind them and throws Strasser onto a power line over a transformer. Short two fingers on the hand holding the wire, Strasser loses his grip and falls onto the transformer, where he is electrocuted to death.

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Later, at the Santa Monica Pier, Joe attempts to save a child from atop the burning wheel, but the fire burns it down and Joe and the child fall to the ground, where Joe jumps off of the burning wheel, protecting the boy and knocking himself unconscious. Joe survives the fall and awakens and Jill mentions that they need to raise money to open a preserve for him. The young boy named Jason donates some change to Jill after hearing this, prompting the rest of the crowd to contribute.

Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) Mighty Joe Young 1998

Joe is returned to Uganda where Jill and Gregg open the "Joe Young Preserve." Finally free, Joe runs off into the jungle.


Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) Mighty Joe Young Movie Poster 4 of 4 IMP Awards

  • Bill Paxton as Professor Gregory "Gregg" O'Hara
  • Charlize Theron as Jill Young
  • John Alexander as Mighty Joe Young
  • Rade Šerbedžija as Andrei Strasser
  • Regina King as Cecily Banks
  • Peter Firth as Garth
  • Naveen Andrews as Pindi
  • David Paymer as Harry Ruben
  • Robert Wisdom as Kweli
  • Christian Clemenson as Jack
  • Geoffrey Blake as Vern
  • Lawrence Pressman as Doctor Elliot Baker
  • Linda Purl as Doctor Ruth Young
  • Mika Boorem as Young Jill Young
  • Cory Buck as Jason
  • Production

    Cinematographer Donald Peterman suffered head injuries, a broken leg and broken ribs due to a crane accident on the film set in 1997. His camera platform plummeted 18 feet (5.5 m) to the ground when the crane snapped. A cameraman was also injured in the accident.

    For the majority of the film, Joe was portrayed by creature suit performer John Alexander who wore a radio-controlled animatronic gorilla mask and full body suit created by special makeup effects artist Rick Baker and his crew at Cinovation Studios. In order to achieve those scenes, Alexander would often act on miniature sets that were surrounded by blue screen in which visual effects house DreamQuest Images would composite him into footage that was shot before. While in the beginning of the film when Joe was an infant he was performed by Verne Troyer. For certain scenes, the filmmakers used three full-sized animatronics (one in quadruped, one sitting down, and one in a dead position) also created by Baker's crew. For the scenes where the digital Joe was used, visual effects houses DreamQuest Images and Industrial, Light, & Magic would work on different scenes using the same model provided by Baker. Many of these performances were achieved by key-frame animation, but when the digital Joe was running and jumping was motion capture data that they captured from an infant chimpanzee.


    Mighty Joe Young (1998 film) Mighty Joe Young 1949 film Wikipedia

    The music for the film was composed and conducted by James Horner. The soundtrack was released in December 1998.


    The film grossed $50.6 million against a production budget of $90 million. and holds a rating of 52% from Rotten Tomatoes based on 46 reviews. The site's critical consensus is: "Beguiling effects transcend a predictable plot."

    Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 stars out of 4, saying, "Mighty Joe Young is an energetic, robust adventure tale: not too cynical, violent or fragmented for kids, not too tame for adults. After all the calculation behind "Godzilla" or "Armageddon," it has a kind of innocence. It's not about a monster but about a very big, well-meaning gorilla that just wants to be left in peace." Despite giving the film positive reviews, he also pointed out that the romance scenes and villains were only average and by no means exceptional. Common Sense Media gave the film 4 stars and said, "The 1949 RKO version of Mighty Joe Young is a tired monster film of the ape-runs-amuck variety that tried (unsuccessfully) to cash in on the popularity of King Kong. This Disney version has plenty more to offer a young audience. As Jill follows in her mom's footsteps, this environmentally-friendly story provides serious food for thought. It also provides plenty of comic relief. Joe is a feat of technical wizardry; he's so life-like that it's hard to believe he's a composite of animatronic and digital effects. Children will warm to him, especially since Joe is particularly sweet to kids. They will also enjoy Theron's and Paxton's engaging performances, and applaud (as an 8 year-old viewer did) when this couple inevitably gets together. If the climactic sequence is too intense for small children, it certainly ends happily. Mighty Joe Young turns out to be a heart-warming experience with an environmental message." Reelviews Movie Reviews gave the film 3 stars out of 4, and generally positive reviews: "Although Joe's size makes him a monster, his disposition makes him cuddly. Despite not being daring in style or story, Mighty Joe Young is nevertheless a charming and enjoyable adventure, and a rare remake that's better than the original. It may not have the box office punch to exceed the $100 million mark, but it's good enough to entertain an audience." Colin Fraser of eFilm Critic gave it 3 stars, saying, "Strictly for ten-year-olds, Mighty Joe Young has its ample heart in exactly the right place. After an opening sequence that will have kiddies reaching for Kleenex, the action soon picks up with many a thrill on the way. This is not Jurassic Park however and doesn't really deserve its Academy nomination for effects."

    Among those who criticized the film included Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide, who gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4 and said, "This is technology-driven spectacle: It's too shallow to really work for adults, but so slow and relentlessly serious that kids are bound to get restless. Joe himself is an amazing creation, less personable, to be sure, than the original lovelorn King Kong, but a far more fully realized character than any of the flesh and blood humans by whom he's surrounded." Paul Clinton of CNN gave it negative reviews, saying, "Great scenery, cartoonish villains, huges leaps of suspended belief, and mouthwatering shots of Charlize Theron are in plentiful supply in "Mighty Joe Young." And baby, can this boy travel. He goes from Africa to L.A. in just one dissolve. Then when he escapes he goes from Hollywood Boulevard, to the Los Angeles river, to the Pacific Palisades in seconds. If you're not familiar with L.A ... trust me ... couldn't happen." and "The gorilla is pretty impressive and expressive, but overall it's much ado about -- not much. I have a feeling this film will be fairly low on the food chain of "must see" holiday films." Stephen Holden of The New York Times gave the film generally unfavorable reviews, saying, "Mighty Joe Young, directed by Ron Underwood from a screenplay by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner, is saddled with dialogue so wooden that Mr. Paxton and Ms. Theron almost seem animatronic themselves. Little children won't notice. In Joe, they can identify with the biggest, cuddliest simian toy a 6-year-old could ever hope to own." Dustin Putman gave it 2 stars out of 4 and negative reviews, saying, "Mighty Joe Young is an agreeable time-waster for older kids (it's much too violent for the youngest viewers) and perhaps some adults, but in a season when children could also choose to see the marvelous "The Prince of Egypt," and adults could pick any number of far superior films, "Mighty Joe Young" simply pales in comparison. Although you could certainly do much worse, there is only one really distinctive quality about the film, and that is Charlize Theron's charismatic performance."

    Mighty Joe Young also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects, losing to What Dreams May Come.


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