Corey’s review published on Letterboxd:
King Kong: the granddaddy of kaiju films, a milestone, pioneer in special effects and cinematography for the eruptive genre that spawned decades later and have lived on until now and beyond; what should be and could easily be deemed as flawless is hindered and challenged by conflicting themes of sexism, racism, and colonialism.
let there be no mistake: King Kong boasts incredible technical execution with stop-motion movement, seamless green screen, and a dense atmosphere that fits the black and white filmmaking like a glove. the ability to give Kong such immense life through unimaginable precision and dedication is hypnotic, thrilling with astonishment that is hard to break away from. the humanism that is detailed through mannerisms - curiosity, tenderness, defense, resolve - is impeccable, even in close-up moments of the animatronic head that absorbs the screen. the brutality of Kong is daunting and quite the extravagant graphic for its time, with a rightfully high-numbered body count as people throw his environment into disarray. and to piggyback on this, the notion of rooting for Kong is conveyed with strength, evoking sympathy and empathy for not being the “misunderstood” titular ape, but the exploited and extracted being that had no place in being condemned to such tragedy.
all of that aside, the looming thematics are impossible to ignore. the main issue at hand is the indistinguishable stance the filmmakers have when creating the production. there are clear notes of racism, but it is unclear if the directors are aiming to critique this, or embody this. one could argue that this is a stark message of how pompous white people view the “outside” world, superiority painting stereotypes over what they do not understand and what they concoct unnecessary fear from. to the same degree, this could actually be an interpretation of the same thing, especially given how Kong is dually represented as more of a ferocious kidnapper than the “beauty and the beast” trope that is explicitly commented on more than once in the film. the portrayal of him, again, cannot be ignored, and equally cannot be dismissed as a “product of the time.” while it may not derive from malicious intent, the blurred position of the message causes issue and falls over itself, keeping tenor with the attitudes with the era or not. without this being outright stated as an allegory or metaphor, hopes and positive assumptions can cloud judgement. my thoughts? well, of course i want to give the benefit of the doubt, as that is the best way this film comes across. however, what should be obvious in one way, is not so obvious in the other. what is completely obvious is the blatant sexism, which is hilariously spoken in dialogue and also pinned to in final moments of the film, suggesting that Kong’s downfall is due to, again, the beauty and the beast - his obsession and captivation with Fay Wray, being her fault.
a tough one to gauge, but at the same time, it is not. King Kong is a monument in cinema for its effects, animation, and action, for all the right reasons. simultaneously, it is disgraced by its inability to show just where it stands with the themes on-screen. it is disheartening, mainly to want to view this film through a lens of tragedy and innovative horror and adrenaline, but to instead have to consider what the takeaway for this in 1933 was over the simple bewilderment and amazement it should have been.