This was the movie Jackson said he always wanted to remake. He had even attempted it at age 12 with hand-built models and his parents movie camera. When his film The Frighteners had some fair success, he proposed a remake of King Kong to the studio, but they didn’t think it was a good bet in competition with remakes of Godzilla and Mighty Joe Young, already in the works. But following the monster success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Jackson was able to make the movie and make it how he wanted it. Perhaps that latter bit was something of the endevor’s undoing.
The film is over three hours and that is before the release of the “directors cut” version. It has too many characters, too many subplots, and to many Jackson-style action scenes. As a tribute to the original, 1933 version, it does have its merits. Jackson also tries to channel some Stanley Kubrick, suggesting the story is a version of Heart of Darkness (“It’s not an adventure story. Is it, Mr. Hayes?” “No, Jimmy. It’s not.”) All-in-all, its not a bad film, but it may well have been better to experience it with an hour or so shaved off.
The reason I watched it again is that my kids had never seen it and they’re at an age when they should appreciate dinosaurs fighting a supersized gorilla.
I suppose I was older then they are now when I first saw the 1933 version. Like Jackson himself, I was greatly saddened when the great ape was killed by the army, mostly for being misunderstood. Jackson, perhaps with a little too heavy a hand, tries to make sure that we understand that Denham (Jack Black) is the villain and Kong, along with most of the others he drags along on his adventure, are innocent victims. Such subtleties are lost on young kids.
At the end of the film, and argument broke out between my children. My daughter’s sympathies were with Kong and she was angry at the army for trying to kill him. That riled my boy a bit and soon the shouting began. Although my son acknowledged that Kong had turned out to be all right and it was not his fault he was brought to New York, he felt the army had no choice but to respond how they did.
“What is the army supposed to do? Kong was killing people? They have to stop him from killing people?” – Boy
“They should know, they should leave him alone.” – Girl
Eventually, it nearly came to blows. My daughter was cheering on Kong as he knocked down airplanes and my son thought it was terrible to applaud the killing of humans. Although my daughter took in the message of the movie as it was intended; the audience is expected to come over to the side of Kong by the time he is taken from Skull Island; there is also something admirable about my son’s position. When it comes down to it, shouldn’t we value human life above non-human life? If our city is really under assault by some strange, inhuman creature, shouldn’t our loyalty be first to our fellow man?
The boy is the younger and his attitude is more instinctive and less influenced by the surrounding culture. It may also be individual personality differences at play, unrelated to age or gender. I have to wonder, though, if there is something essentially male versus female in their reactions? Is the girl instinctively more likely, like Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) herself, to want to protect the big, hairy beast? Is the boy genetically predispositioned to defend the homeland against the invading hordes? Or am I like Jackson, overdoing a what was originally 100 minutes of monster/action movie and trying to project greater meaning where none exists?