King Kong was originally produced during the year 1933 when theatre was the only medium of presentation and when depression was rampant. The renowned movie set during the great depression had several prominent features, namely, a big black ape, the beautiful girl, the skull island, and the empire state building.
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Apparently, the skull island and the insidious ape depicted as solitary, primitive and full of pride which is symbolic of prehistoric culture while the empire state building and the beautiful girl present in all sequels of the movie represent the recurring theme of civilization.
The girl that always emerges victorious at the end clearly symbolizes the ability of postmodern society to sustain development regardless of unpredictable economic situations that could arise and threaten the very existence of civilization. Analysis of various stylistic details i.e. film stock, medium etc used in representation of all king Kong sequels will help us understand how the King Kong monster film relates to historically specific set of anxieties e.g. women’s rights, technology, urbanization and modernization.
A brief overview of King Kong 2005 movie will help us understand better how depression and urbanization are portrayed in this monster movie which was set at the height of great depression in New York. There is rampant unemployment and untold hunger among people. There is spiraling crime and people are willing to do anything to make the ends meet. The lead actor, Naomi Watts (Anne Darrow) performs for her group despite the fact that the crew members haven’t been paid a dime for weeks.
She is at the verge of a nervous breakdown on the streets of the Big Apple a moment after the closure of the theatre where she performs. A producer from Broadway approaches her and asks her if she can work at burlesque club but she declines after careful consideration. By rejecting the offer, the female figure demonstrates that she has principles that she is unwilling to compromise for financial gain.
Outside the club, the actress meets this filmmaker, Jack Black (Carl Denham) who has just made away with his producers masterpiece. Denham succeeds in convincing Anne to join in the making of his film by revealing to her that the masterpiece is made by her favorite hero Jack Driscoll, the scriptwriter.
The crew members cast a suspicious eye on Denham whom they think is eyeing Anne after an hour of character development since they believe that they are headed for Singapore. On the ship, Anne decides to perform for the members of the crew.
This is part of the reason why they are more than willing to risk their lives to get her out of trouble in later parts of the film. Later, the ship wrecks havoc at the skull island and the crew members are given a hostile welcome by savage natives who are probably descendants of people who got stranded on the Island.
After having gone through various adventures on the Island, The monster is subdued with bottles of chloroform after it breaks through the gates. Denham’s dream of becoming a millionaire becomes true after capturing the beast and bringing it to New York. Kong is to later break out of the theatre and give Jack Driscoll a big chase (Jackson, 2005).
After dealing the Cab which Driscoll is riding a great blow, Anne saves his day by appearing from the smog and allowing the monster to take hold of her and they both leave for the central park and the rest of what happens is well known by anyone who has ever watched this movie.
Before we commence with making any further analysis, it is good to note that there are various misleading visual analysis of this movie that are often stereotypical. Most critics of the movie argue that the awful big black ape specifically symbolize in implicit terms the black masculinity often depicted as being obsessed with white beauty.
This depicts the kind of white sexual anxieties that prevailed during the time when the movie was first made. This is so because it is unlikely that such kind of visual interpretation apply to all other monster movies like predator, Frankenstein etc that do not focus on beauty (Wilkins, 2004, 40).
This does not mean that movie producers do not have such agendas implicitly or explicitly interwoven in some of their movies but that most if not all of monster movies consistently portray the theme of unprecedented threats to, urbanization and how humanity bound by a common sense of purpose rise together regardless of their economic, political and social backgrounds to surmount such a threat.
The king Kong movie depicts how human conscience has matured to allow for objective rather than subjective outlook on life. To avoid making mistakes made by the four blind Hindustanis while giving their views and opinions on what an elephant looks like, this research article will restrict itself to analyzing stylistic details and other aspects used in production of King Kong to make it more appealing to its audience and bring out certain themes in social and political history.
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Like most monster movies, King Kong endeavors to show the superiority of technology over some unknown force that could threaten urbanization. The eventual destruction of the monster through the use of advanced technology is symbolic of destruction of people posing a direct challenge to urbanization like Osama bin Laden, Hitler, Muammar Gaddafi and others.
Political views and ideologies held by such individuals are akin to monsters that can potentially lead to depression. Unlike other monster movies where the audience is often unsympathetic towards the monster, watching King Kong leaves a person with feelings of sympathy.
The unprecedented threat towards urbanization depicted by the 2005 King Kong movie took place when the terrorists struck the heart of New York City. The primitive monster had truly left the Skull Island and entered New York City in pursuit of the beauty of advances in commerce and industry not to embrace it but to subtly destroy the urban progress thereby weakening the society through acute depression.
This is so because a union between a woman and an animal is impossible and unproductive leave alone that of a monster and a woman. The King Kong 2005 movie clearly demonstrates September 11, 2001 situation through splendid use of specific visual details.
This monster is analogous to some terror gang living in caves planning on how to weaken their enemy by bringing down their urban progress without which, there would be hardly any civilization. The King Kong is also symbolic of the great depression while the empire state building mirrors twin towers and so on and so forth.
However, it would be completely wrong to restrict the monster film to mean war on terrorism only (Middleton, 1992, 76). The aim of the foregoing brief discussion is not to give any personal opinion but to give us a picture through which we can come to appreciate how the various stylistic details have been used in the making of the monster movie.
The producer of the 2005 King Kong movie must have realized that there is a close interconnection between a monster, depression and urbanization thereby prompting him to add more depth to the movie.
The woman is symbolic of urbanization while the monster symbolizes rural life and primal mans system of thinking. The movement of the beast from the Island into the city is symbolic to rural urban migration or migrants from developing countries into developed countries.
People are ostensibly moving away from their poorly performing economies to go and seek respite in established cities like New York. The poorly performing economies are depicted by the savages who are not only unsightly but extremely dangerous. Immigrants’ entry into developed states threatens their outstretched economy that is already suffering from effects of depression.
The monster is also symbolic of depression that terrifies and overwhelms people. It brings chaos into the city and threatens the life of Anne not to mention that it led to deaths of so many people. The monster often takes world stage and it is the beauty of a woman or strength of urbanization that eventually leads to its demise. King Kong movie clearly shows that there will always be some financial controversy surrounding the monster. The monster eventually brings about destructions of social, political and economical nature.
Economically speaking, much of modern civilization is fuelled by oil. Without this commodity, economies would grind to a halt. This commodity has taken the center stage of the world and is a subject of both political and financial concern and undue changes in its price can lead to depression which can in turn slow development. Slowing of urban development could mean that some regions of the state could be neglected.
People from such regions might act out of hopelessness and resort to engaging in some antisocial activities as a way of escaping realities brought about by poverty arising as a result of depression. Such activities can be in form of cults that could by themselves pose a threat to urbanization.
People can be brainwashed by such cults into believing that there is no need of developing infrastructure and technology to improve people’s lives but people should instead take comfort in some horrible cults as a way of life (Wilkins, 2004, 55).
The visual effects i.e. common gateway interface used in the making of the first 2005 king Kong fantasy film makes the monster appear to be so real. The message carried by this movie remains timeless despite of changes in digital animation, special effects and film technology (Jackson, 2005).
The king Kong film stock which allows for the flickering of the silver screen allows for the interconnection of the current movie with its original settings thereby leaving the audience with a more realistic view of the beast. Contrary to popular beliefs, King Kong was made from a puppet and was not played by a man inside an ape suit.
The gigantic ape and other creatures shown in the film maintain a much realistic feeling through the use of stop motion animation. This technique of animation works by filming minute set of frames which are then shown at film speed in sequence (Jackson, 2005).
This result into an illusion of moving creature that is alive. Multi layered glass paintings are placed on the background to create a background that makes the illusion seem to be all the more real. In the scene where King Kong gets killed in all versions, there is a huge crowd of onlookers. The camera moves slowly from the base of the towers from where the crowd is standing, the music is somber and suddenly there is text scrolling upwards.
Apparently, there are prevailing theories such as Darwinism that reduce man to the level of a beast. From Galapagos Island and straight into the city came Darwin’s theory of survival for the fittest.
This brought about urban conflict. By making people to believe that they are nothing special but animals, people were desensitized and all they could ever think from that point onwards was to get rich at whatever cost regardless of religious or moral principles. There is this famous saying that goes “get rich or die trying”. Depression led to increase in criminal activities whose desire to be rich at whatever cost threatens to cause anarchy in urban places.
Though the film endorses masculinity based on the archetype of the ape, it does not allow the ape to emerge victorious. This shows the triumph of urban, industrial life over a rural agrarian one despite of prevalent depression. The role of a hero is granted to Jack who is Ann’s boyfriend. Jack is civilized unlike the beast and gives the lady the respect that she deserves. This shows the degree to which urban life has transformed behaviors of modern man who differs to a great degree from the primal archetype depicted by the ape.
Jackson, Peter, dir. King Kong. United States of America: Studio Canal, Universal Studios, 2005. Film.
Middleton, Peter. The inward gaze: masculinity and subjectivity in Modern culture. New York: Rout ledge, 1992. Print.
Wilkins, Riki. Queer theory, gender theory: an instant primer. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2004. Print.