Monsters, Madmen and Heroes:
How Peter Jackson Emasculated King Kong
By Dr. Tom Snyder,
Editor MovieGuide Magazine
As he proved with his version of The Lord of the Rings
trilogy by Tolkien, Peter Jackson is an extremely talented, hard-working
film director who wants to give the public their money's worth.
Jackson has obviously brought the same kind of attention to detail,
care, and hard work to his extravagant, three-hour remake of the
classic American movie King Kong.
So, why isn't the movie doing as well at the box office as expected?
Several reasons seem to be the cause, including the movie's bloated
running time. For example, it takes Jackson more than an hour
to reveal the title character. Even then, the revelation of the
Big Hairy Ape known as Kong is somewhat of a letdown. In no way
does it compare to the frightening, hair-raising, thrilling scene
in the original 1933 movie. A screaming Faye Wray staring up into
the sharp teeth of a monstrous gorilla will always and forever
be the stuff that nightmares are made of. The new King Kong
doesn't even come close.
The main reason that King Kong fails, however, is the
age-old problem of story and character.
The movie not only transforms an American pop culture phenomenon
from a heroic, scary and exciting fantasy into an environmentalist,
anti-capitalist, vegetarian argument for animal rights. It also
changes the two male protagonists, Carl Denham and Jack Driscoll,
from a heroic madman and a heroic adventurer into a greedy monster
and a wimpy intellectual.
People go to movies to see heroes with whom they can identify.
The heroes may be flawed, like Carl Denham's character in the
original 1933 King Kong, but they must overcome their
flaws to rescue the damsel, defeat the villain, tame the beast,
or banish the monster.
By turning the main protagonist, Carl Denham, into a monster,
by depriving Jack Driscoll of his heroic manly virtues, and by
turning King Kong into a sensitive vegetarian who just wants to
be left alone with the girl of his dreams, Peter Jackson and his
two female screenwriters, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, have
emasculated the original story.
People don't want to sit through a three-hour vegetarian, feminist
lecture about how bad modern civilization is, no matter how many
eye-popping action scenes and special effects you put into it.
Nor do they want to sit through a hopeless, preachy tragedy about
how rotten mankind is, and men are. They want a hero who validates
their culture or who points to eternal verities and ideals to
which most of us, by the grace of God, aspire.
American moviegoers enjoy their heroes. And, they enjoy the fruits
of their capitalist society, a big part of which is the liberty
to eat as much animal flesh as you want.
Our need for true heroes shows, however, that our society is
not just about material goods. Sure, at the end of a hard work
day, the average American likes to occasionally be able to sit
down to a meal of meat, potatoes, and bread. Personally, I always
like a lot of bread with my meat.
But, as a couple great religious leaders by the name of Moses
and Jesus once said, man does not live by bread (or meat) alone
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Thus, Judaism, Christianity, American history, and Western Civilization
are full of heroic people of faith who serve God by spreading
His Word, fight evil with good, rescue civilizations, and promote
the Good, the True and the Beautiful.
MovieGuide®, the outfit for which I work, is a family
guide to movies and entertainment that tries to help Hollywood's
decision makers do just these kinds of things. It also helps the
public to be heroes in their daily lives, especially when it comes
to what their children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces watch.
Each year, at our annual Faith & Values Awards Gala held
just before the Oscars, we promote our annual, extensive analysis
of the box office. Each year, that analysis shows Hollywood that
the vast majority of moviegoers want humorous, witty, suspenseful,
and heroic movies with positive characters. They also want to
see heartwarming, redemptive stories that respect traditional
American values and that respect traditional biblical, and even
Christian, values (after all, most Americans claim to be Christian
and Christianity is the largest religion in the world).
When Hollywood creates such movies, people will come to them,
even when they are three hours long (three hours goes by fast
when you have an entertaining story with heroic characters).
That's what attracted moviegoers in such big numbers to tremendously
popular movies like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the
Spider-Man movies, Finding Nemo, The Passion
of the Christ, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Moviegoers
were attracted to the mythic narratives, driving plots, heroic
characters, profound emotions, and transcendent ideas and ideals
presented in these movies.
The values of the American people speak most powerfully through
their pocketbooks. Regrettably, Hollywood usually doesn't listen
to what the American people and their pocketbooks are saying.
Apparently, Peter Jackson and his writers haven't either, at
least this time.
More Movie and Television
articles on CBN.com
Dr. Snyder is editor of MovieGuide, whose website is www.movieguide.org.
He has a Ph.D. in Film Studies from Northwestern University near
Chicago, where his specialties were film genre and religion, myth
and politics in film.
More from ASSIST News
ASSIST News Service is brought to you in part by Open Doors USA,
a ministry that has served the Suffering Church around the world
for nearly 50 years. You can get more information by logging onto
their website at www.opendoorsusa.org.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.