A film crew goes to a tropical island for an exotic location shoot and discovers a colossal ape who takes a shine to their female blonde star. He is then captured and brought back to New York City for public exhibition.
Believe it or not, I’ve never actually watched the original King Kong. I love monster movies, but I think the countless remakes and sequels of this film really put me off to it. The only thing I knew about it was that Fay Wray was one of the earliest “Scream Queens” largely, in part due to this film.
Now, setting aside the dated dialogue and ideals of women and natives for a moment, this film is an artistic masterpiece. Now, I know what you may be thinking: ‘Really, Kristen, a masterpiece?’. Yes, I said what I said. This film is a masterpiece in a couple ways, the biggest way being its use of stop motion animation. The animation in this film truly is an art form. The amount of work that was put into these scenes alone shows that this film was a labor of love for a lot of people. And, you know, I am always infinitely more impressed with special effects in pre-computer era films because, although it is complicated to do special effects on a computer, it seems a lot more complicated to do them without. I am forever going to be blown away by the King Kong/T-Rex fight scene in this film and the overlaying of animation and live action in 1933.
Okay, now that I am done praising the film, let’s criticize it a bit. I mentioned above that the dialogue is dated. The film’s view of women leaves something to be desired. It is unbelievably sexist, from the character of Carl Denham stating the he needs to “get a girl for my picture”, like he can just get women from a store, to the main love interest repeatedly stating that he hates women. Honestly, the romantic relationship in this film is garbage. The depiction of the natives of Skull Island is another monster entirely, on several different levels. Often in older films, those of African descent are depicted as “ape-like”. That being said, some have seen this film as an allegory of interracial relationships. Those who were involved in the making of this film have vehemently denied that that is what is taking place in the film.
What one can say for certain is that the moral of this story is that human beings are the monsters. Kong, after being forcibly removed from his island and being put on display for humans to gawk at, breaks free and runs rampant through New York City, culminating in one of the most famous scenes from the film, Kong on the top of the Empire State building. Kong is then, presumably, killed by human beings in airplanes.
You know, it is unfortunate to see that, even after 87 years, the theme of human beings (specifically white people) meddling in things and destroying things they have nothing to do with is still present in media. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: we have not come as far as we think we have.