Arthur Slugworth’s review published on Letterboxd:
So after loving all of those Universal Monster classics, I figured I'd give the old college try to one classic cinematic fable with a big øld monkë, King Kong.
And just as the movie crew hacks and machetes through jungle to encounter the legendary huge ape, I found myself weeding through the problematic, byegone world views of the producers and creators to access the artistic nugget hidden in an otherwise spectacular work of dazzling entertainment. Underscoring the dazzle, I found myself more enchanted on my couch streaming this antiquated feature from 90 years ago, than I felt watching Jackson's Kong in the theater, or whatever that Skull island movie opened a few years ago, from which all I recall is Samuel L and the copious licensed music.
Right, so anyway, what artistic nugget hides beneath the rose tinted, prejudice dappled bombast? Well, King Kong shockingly frames it's character strife aping great works of romance with a loose nuance. The titular leading lady, Ann Darrow, is pursued and coveted by multiple male suitors:
1) The film director wants to exploit the young starlet. Her naivety and beauty translate to dollar signs for the fast talking money man who neither deserves nor earns her favor.
2) The woman-hating sailor resents that same weakness and vulnerability exploited by the director. As inevitable time and typical movie plots require, he softens up and vyes against the other suitors for her favor and assumes to earn it as the party unveils Kong. (I don't think he earned it and I was rooting against him!)
3) The Skull Island Chief, like the movie director, sees the beauty of Ann as expoitable; she is a potential gift for the great God of Skull Island, King Kong. She can assure security and favor for the larger tribe. Civilized and Uncivilized men of power are essentially equated with one another in their treatment of Ann.
4) King Kong, the savage brute yet rightful suitor, earns and fights for his new love by protecting her from dinosaurs, destroying the exploitive film crew and annihilating the sacrificial tribe. As the only other character sharing Ann's naivete, Kong's mighty destruction of civilization both primitive and modern, and of exploitive men in power only underscore his rightful status as the true romantic suitor. Kong feels for Ann with the abandon and vulnerability of true love. The genius of the film is that we start rooting for the great ape, in a classic subversion of expectations even modern films can't seem to master.
So tragic, and brilliant then, is the ending of this iconic work of cinema. Kong as Beast, or even Odysseus, overcomes 3 wrongful suitors to win his belle, only to be brought low by those savages, civilized and uncivilized, that would sacrifice Ann, exploit her, or resent her naiveté. We watch Kong fall with tears in our eyes for he, not humanity, loved Ann, and truly deserved her favor.
Although she would probably disagree, it's with such cinematic grace that our collective favor is wonderfully manipulated, to feel for Kong.
Mönke make me sad! 🙈🙉🙊