t'wasn't beauty that killed the beast...
It was SFX. If there is one moral to be taken from back-to-back watchings of these three Kongs, it's that a man in a monkey suit (I'm talking to YOU 1976) is never as good as stop motion and computerized animals. Kong76 was just weak. He felt like a man in a monkey suit, looked like a man in a monkey suit, and walked like a man in a monkey suit shot in slow motion. Even at his most pathetic, in the hold of the cargo ship being brought home, he was monkey-suitish. If a man in a monkey suit falls off a tree in the forest, will anybody cry? Not this time, buddy. Even juxtaposed on the tragic towers, Kong76 was more hackneyed than hankied. Die, Kong76! Die!
Kong33 moved like a dream Kong. He was monkey like, curious, and pounded like an angry 5 year old boy in a room full of miniature toys. Brilliant animation, and FX that looked better than the seventies version. He didn't try to seduce his blonde, he just grabbed her and ran. Although, his eardrums must have pierced with the pitch of her peril, he was manly--er, apely, throughout. Great moments: flexing the jaw of the Tyran. Rex after killing him. Breaking out of the chains on stage, because of those wicked, wicked flash bulbs; Climbing the Empire State, and the finale, a truly emotional powerhouse of a confused and angry and sad ape brought down by the planes. Tears were choked back. Kong33 mesmerizes.
Kong05 is a new kind of Kong. He's shiny! Looks good in close up! Has the stamina to go on for hours and hours! He also is capable of being coy and communicative, something he has over his brethren. He actually forms a relationship with the blonde, who will do anything for him. And I mean, climbing to the top of a radio tower in designer heels to stop the damn planes. This Kong--boy, did I mention he goes on forever. And ever. Man, is he done fighting all of those things yet? This island is fucking vicious! How does anything survive for more than a day or so? How many creatures fall into that valley so that those insects can eat them? Do the insects have total turf wars and eat each other? Sorry--didn't mean to digress. So, they're on top of the Empire State (Tris McCall sings: "Just know that this tangle of tickertape is the price for our Empire State"), and the blonde is weeping. Did I? Well, I confess, no. But it wasn't for lack of emotion, but for the splitting headache our late dinner and movie did to me. I think I need to see this one again. (Movie was screened, incidentally, at the best theater in Seattle. Some people ignorantly think this is the best theater in Seattle. They are wrong. This is the best theater in Seattle).
But, before that, let's talk about blondes: Fay Wray set the stage for all the others, after all. She was coy and sweet, a bit tough and tender, but never really related to her Kong. She was a bit more of a stereotypical screamer. She was meant for one man, and that man was the man on the boat, not the beast on the dry land. In her, we saw both the bitterness of her captor dying, and the sweetness of being free of him forever. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome, 40 years before the term was coined.
To Ms. Introducing Jessica Lange: I hope you gave a big fat endowment to Ms. Magazine after making this stinker, where you not only played the embodiment of every stereotypical seventies men's fantasy, but you actually appeared to enjoy it. The lithe airhead who actually, literally tries to find out what sign Kong was. Okay, so maybe it's not your fault--maybe you're at the hand of directors whose idea of the ideal woman was a giggling moronic beauty, but maybe that was the very poorly done subtext, eh? That you finally met a man who really treated you like a Barbie Doll, and you kind of fall for him? No, wait--that makes no sense. And what the hell was Charles Grodin doing as an oil man?
And finally, we have Naomi Watts. We've known you could act since Mullholland Dr. We've known you could you were willing to mock yourself with I Heart Huckabees. Now we know you can do action too. The only Ann Darrow who felt like a real person. She had a talent, besides beauty, and a drive, besides swooning. She formed a real, believable relationship with the great ape. Of course, her digital double defies physics, but Watts herself was just great.
Okay, and then we have to address the whole racism of the movie in general. Is Kong supposed to be emblematic of the untamed black man, and the idea is that we have to protect our wimmin from him? I dunno. I think the more curious question is why these Pacific Islanders all look like Africans, although Jackson's natives look more like a satanic Maori tribe. It seems to be a racist conceit--the whole goddamned thing. Is it?
I'm not smart enough to know for sure. I would say--maybe, and then also say--maybe not. That is, maybe the movie is racist, and maybe the movie is pointing out fear of the unknown, which is the basis of racism--which is fear dressed as power.
And power is what brought Kong down. Bullets in the chest as he tried to protect the blonde. An animal suffering, at the end. Not a black man, or a metaphor--what makes us cry (or almost cry) is the animal misunderstood and attacked. God help us, we've just killed the beast.Where we saw it: DVD , Movie Theater | We deign to rate it: 96, 25, 90 outta 100