King Kong

King Kong ★★★½

And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I'm going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive - a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.

It's not quite as good as Godzilla '54, definitely not as far as the human characters are concerned, who aren't quite as compelling here, and are mostly vehicles for the plot. But that's alright. After all, we're all here for the monkey, right?

The special effects here are... not great. They were probably great in 1933, but don't hold up quite as well for me as Godzilla's more practical effects. Even still though, they don't get too much in the way of the some of the more exciting action bits, particularly Kong fucking up monsters on Skull Island (or is it Skull Mountain?).

Also thought they did a pretty good job with a lot of the sets and production design. One can't help but be a little bit more generous and a little more easily impressed by certain things in much older movies, and given its place in the earlier days of movies, a lot of it looks surprisingly good.

One thing which particularly surprised me about Kong himself in this original version is that, in addition to being a monstrous brute, there are also moments in which he seems to be almost child-like, with a sort of "simple-minded" demeanor, a trait which displayed itself rather disturbingly during a scene in which he is very nearly sexually violating Ann (Fay Wray), removing her clothes. Which I suppose is a good enough segue into the next point.

"It's a gorilla."

"Gee, ain't we got enough of them in New York?"

King Kong is kinda racist, ain't it.

Obviously I was aware of the "Kong as an allegory for Africans brought to America" theory, but I was also under the impression that the interpretation was at least somewhat disputed. But the above quote really moves it out of the realm of subtext, and explicitly tells you "we're wanting you, the audience, to draw a parallel between Kong and a group of people in New York". No points for guessing who that might be.

The movie makes a point, even before reaching the island, of drawing attention to race, and even before Kong himself appears, we're met with the islanders who are a stereotypical racist image of "black savages" - recognizing Kong as an extension of that is hardly a stretch from there. Like the islanders, he's an amalgamation of anti-black stereotypes (the "simple-mindedness", the brutishness, the sexual aggression - one can probably read subtext of cannibalism in there as well). And I can't imagine anyone watching this without being struck by how blatantly it evokes the white supremacist anxiety about black men "stealing" white women (in this case, very literally).

Also, there was the Chinese character. Which... I guess he wasn't as bad as he could've been? But still not great.

So yeah. King Kong's a bit racist.

Other than that though, it at least has some exciting action set-pieces, and provides a thrilling experience insofar as you aren't thinking too hard about everything it's trying to say.

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