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King Kong is a Marxist

John on December 27, 2005 at 10:23 pm

All the elements of Marxist propaganda are here — the immiserated populace, the despicable rich, and the proletariat (embodied by Kong himself) breaking their chains to fight their oppressor! All that’s missing is a red star on Kong’s chest. Though it’s handled with more subtlety than that, the film ultimately has as much in common with the 1970s remake — which wrapped Kong in a wet blanket of environmentalism — as it does the original.

On the popcorn level, the visuals are spectacular. The core love story between Anne and Kong works. And the cast is great, especially Andy Serkis who deserves an oscar for his work as Kong. Indeed, had this been a spectacle film, it would have been a great one. But as a bit of dialogue makes clear, Peter Jackson’s Kong is “not an adventure story,” it’s The Heart of Darkness. In reality, it’s not nearly that interesting. Jackson and his writers have remade Kong as Titanic with an ape. As in Cameron’s film, the main threat to the love story is capitalism, capitalism and arrogance (which in the movies these days are always synonymous).

The film begins with shiny, happy 1920′s music played ironically over images of men picking through garbage and shanty towns full of desperate children. Carl Denham, the filmmaker played by Jack Black, claims to be an artist but is ultimately revealed to be just another huxster out for money. The heroes of the film, by contrast, are “men of the people.” Adrien Brody’s Jack Driscoll is a playwright turned action hero. Kong, by contrast is an action hero revealed to have the soul of a poet.

I’ll return to the sequences that make up the middle of the film in a moment. For now, I’ll skip ahead to the conclusion. Kong’s unveiling in New York happens before a group of swells in Times Square, with a view of Wall Street. The dapper titans of industry clap politely at Kong’s impotent roar, but boy are they sorry when he gets free. And as Robespierre said, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. So despite his being a stand in for the oppressed, Kong does smash up some regular joe’s riding public transportation. Nevertheless, the moral is about as subtle as a Left Behind novel, only in this story of course Kong doesn’t quite make it to heaven.

Speaking of heaven, let’s return to the center of the picture. There’s been some hubbub in the press about Jackson’s depiction of the dark-skinned natives of Skull Island as essentially racist. This is a complete misunderstanding of the film’s intent. The natives don’t represent racial bias, they represent Jackson’s view of religion. Fear of Kong has turned the islanders– even the children — into feral, cultists whose only love is for death. For a moment one wonders if Jackson is taking a swipe at the Religion of Peace. After all, they’re the ones chopping off the heads of unarmed teen girls.

But just when it seems the film might be saying something truly daring and un-PC, the knee-jerk liberalism kicks in and muddles it. After one of his film crew is killed, Jack Black has a line about finishing the movie to honor the sacrifice of the men…blah, blah, blah. It’s clearly meant to be a mockery of the public statements of Bush and Blair, and like the similar bit of mockery in Revenge of the Sith, it stands out like a sore thumb. In fact, the reference is so ham fisted you half expect someone to shout “No blood for celluloid!” or perhaps “Denham lied, filmmakers died.” Give me a break, PJ. If I wanted to see Syriana I’d have bought a ticket.

Jackson clearly loves the material. He has a great cast, the best visual effects ever seen, and one of the biggest budgets of all time. But without Tolkien to borrow from, he’s ended up taking a great adventure story — the kind that inspires a nine year old to become a filmmaker — and wrapped it up in a stodgy paen to Marxism. I’m sorry, but having a trio of Kiwi multi-millionaires shouting “America sucks!” is not my idea of great filmmaking or, for that matter, my idea of King Kong. It’s also why Denham’s final line, preserved from the original, just doesn’t ring true here.

It wasn’t beauty, it was Marxist tripe that killed this beast.

Addendum: For contrast to the PJ view of things, check out Wizbang’s collection of good news about America’s economy.

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Category: Movies |

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