Why do we go to see a movie that has been made and remade several times? We have nothing new to expect. We go to see a story because we loved it once. King Kong is one such story— a tale of unrequited love. We go to soak in the melodrama that the most savage beast in the world could have a sponge of a heart.
The genesis of King Kong was director Merian C Cooper’s fascination with gorillas from a young age. But when he conceived the movie he said it is a savage beast “killed by beauty”. Cooper planned King Kong as a tragedy. He was to stand as a metaphor– a colossal beast misunderstood and killed with a brutality that escalated his own primitive instincts by manifolds. He stood for catharsis of a large American middle class who would identify with a giant that had the dice loaded against it. So the guys pursuing him are rather like Ahab of Moby Dick who has to either kill the beast or tame it. For that is what we do with things we fail to understand; we dissect and display.
But this version of Kong is lost in translation. Neither are we aware of his origins or his fate as the adventurers begin to leave. This maybe because Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Warner Brothers and Legendary Entertainment have bigger plans with Kong as a franchise. So the beast has to be a little aloof and philosophical—highlighted in scenes where Kong sits lonely pondering at the aurora australis or is looking through a jungle on fire.
The first time we see him in this version he blots out the sun standing next to the mountains looking very much like being made of the same species. Contrary to the previous remakes of the Kong where he climbs skyscrapers and plummets to his death, here he is the towering wonder. This perhaps takes away the humanism in him of being a tragic hero.
The beauty of the skull island and its natives is picturesque to the extent of being fragile. But what about the characters— Samuel L Jackson, as a bull-headed commander, does little in the movie other than being like a petulant spoilt brat bent on destroying the favourite toy of the house. A disenchanted Tom Hiddleston looked to be in a hurry to wrap up the shoot and get back to his long haired Loki avatar. And finally the hugely talented Brie Larson was left mute save a few awkward chastising and sermonising.
Overall Kong is a dumb monster movie that has spiders with legs are disguised as trees. See it if you want to for the scenic grandeur, the gorilla and the metaphor of a tragic hero you got used to by the very name.