So we went to see King Kong on New Years Eve. E and I were especially excited to see it, especially after the excellent reviews it has been getting. I had read aloud the Movie Mom review on Yahoo (I trust her reviews quite a bit) and we felt like it would be a great way to spend a few hours on this rainy vacation. I’m a sucker for grandiose, imaginative portrayals of fantastic creatures as it is. A wonderfully indulgent way to celebrate New Years Eve.
I wasn’t expecting to be confronted with these themes when viewing King Kong! I was expecting pure entertainment fluff. But as I’ve thought about it more, I realize I should have known.
King Kong reached mythic status in
I was lucky to catch the last hour of the original King Kong on TV yesterday afternoon. The 1930’s version was tremendously un-self-reflective to the degree that it is almost innocent—in a way that
However, it was the shocking portrayal of the inhabitants of
One of the essays I found online (on the 1930's version) makes the excellent observation that the spectacle of King Kong turns its audience into monsters. He points out that Kong is splayed out in chains for the Broadway theater audience in the same bodily position as Ann Darrow was in when being sacrificed to Kong on the island. In this way, we see that the theater audience is as insatiable in its appetite for consuming the Other as entertainment as Kong was insatiable in his appetite for the young women being sacrificed to him. However, there is yet one more layer to this—which is that the audience in the movie theater is likewise insatiable. We are made into monsters, consuming the Other for our own entertainment. Somewhere in this is the connection between imperialism and the
Before seeing the film on Saturday, I never would have thought that I would be forced to face such issues after seeing
For this reason, I highly recommend the movie. And I would suggest that you rent the 1930’s version first. For a couple reasons. First, because honestly a great deal of the “charm” of Peter Jackson’s version is how much he remained faithful to his source material, with the same loving reverence as he did with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. But also because it will serve as a touch point for critical reflection, especially in relation to the inhabitants of Skull Island, the portrayal of the relationship between Ann and Kong, and the agency of Ann’s character.