King Kong

It’s good, I think, to watch the season’s biggest blockbuster near the end of its run: the auditorium is deserted, critical opinion has exhausted itself and one can relax in the warm glow of the spectacle. Some people worry that knowing the ending or what critics think will spoil their enjoyment. Indeed, the internet is plastered with “spoiler warnings”.Surely any film worth its salt cannot be spoilt by knowing what happens. All art, even bad art, exists non-linearly. Surely, “knowing” what happens in a film is nothing in comparison with “seeing” it. No? The irony is that the first thing to disappears from the mind when watching a film like King Kong is critical opinion. It disappears because words can’t describe the vast visual textures of its depression-era New York – the melancholy animals in the zoo, the soup kitchens, the blanket of cars and cabs on the roads. It is quite overwhelming and utterly unreal.

After the success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson had carte blanche to make any film he wanted to. That he (re)made King Kong – another 3 hour plus action film that mainly takes place in a fantastical pre-industrial world – is not quite as lazy as it first appears. For whereas Return of the King was about defeating evil, the universe of King Kong doesn’t appear to contain evil. The ‘bad’ humans in the film are venal, predatory, and self-interested, but not evil. Indeed, King Kong is perhaps best seen as an epilogue to the trilogy, making sense of a world without an inhuman, metaphysical evilThe problem with evil is that it’s an abstraction and human beings are not programmed to deal with abstractions on an emotional level. In the UK, people are more interested in protesting against fox hunting than they are in preventing the genocide of thousands of species due to deforestation. Peter Jackson, himself from a region that has seen genocide in living memory, understands this and so gives us a murder of a single (rather large) gorilla as a synecdoche for all the other animals..