Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  
> Featured Themes & Authors > Focus on Film >
King Kong
  Focus on Film    


More Film Commentaries

Book Reviews

Music Reviews



King Kong
Directed by Peter Jackson
187 minutes (PG-13 rating)

Commentary by Kevin Miller

Let me address the obvious criticism first: Was this movie an over the top, overly long, self-indulgent piece of filmmaking? You bet it was. And thank God for that. After all, this is a story about a 25-foot gorilla that winds up on top of the Empire State Building batting planes out of the air. This is no time for restraint.

Sure, doubters will complain that some scenes, such as when Kong fights three dinosaurs while falling through a web of vines, go on for too long. But that only shows lack of appreciation for the sheer breadth of imagination and industry required to create such moments. As for me, about midway through the cavalcade of brontosaurs and humans, I wanted to stand up and cheer. King Kong is the blockbuster of all blockbusters. It’s the reason why megaplexes exist. It’s Hollywood at its best. It’s all systems go. It’s $207 million well spent. And I loved it!

What made me love this film even more was the depth of insight and emotion Jackson managed to extract from his source material. Like Jackson, I’ve been a huge fan of King Kong ever since I was a kid. I even stayed home from a family camping trip one summer so I could catch the 1976 remake on TV. Despite my fascination, I never really thought of Kong as anything but a cool, effects-driven monster flick. However, in Jackson’s hands, King Kong becomes a powerful parable about our schizophrenic relationship with the environment, a dire warning that we ignore at our peril.

The parable begins when filmmaker Carl Denham—played with delightful panache by Jack Black—speaks boldly and eloquently of his desire to “view the beast unshackled” in the wilderness, something only a few brave souls like him are willing to do. But after a brief, firsthand taste of Kong and Skull Island’s other monstrous, unshackled inhabitants, Denham’s romantic ideals are quickly scuttled by the drive to survive, subdue, and, perhaps, to profit.

Meanwhile, Anne Darrow, the woman offered up to Kong by the terrifying natives of Skull Island, begins to develop the strangest case of Stockholm syndrome you’ve ever seen. And who can blame her? The blustering, bellowing ape is irresistible. A triumph of animation and characterization, to see Kong is to love him. Whether he’s ripping dinosaurs in two, beating his chest in triumph or taking time out to enjoy the sunset, Kong is truly a king among beasts. Despite his ferocity, Darrow is uniquely able to appreciate him as such.

Sadly, Denham and his companions are not similarly gifted. Rather than respond to Kong with the awe and respect he deserves, they seek only to subdue him, to tame him, to kill him if they must. That they are able to bring him down at all is truly a triumph of Man over Nature. But for some reason, this accomplishment evokes little urge to celebrate. “We’re millionaires, boys,” says Denham as he stands over Kong’s unconscious form. Perhaps, but at what cost? Nothing less than the wonder and awe that drew Denham to Kong in the first place.

Listless and lifeless, when Kong is put on display in New York, he is nothing but a grim shadow of his former self. The fire that drove him previously has all but died. Tragically, when that fire is reignited, we know it can only lead to his doom. After all, New York is no place for an artifact of unbridled nature like Kong. And it is only a matter of time before Kong meets his fate atop the pinnacle of humankind’s triumph over the very essence of what he represents.

As I see it, Darrow and Denham signify two sides of our split personality regarding the environment. On the one hand, we love and appreciate nature in all its beauty and power. But few of us can leave it at that. The drive to subdue and exploit is irresistible. While we tend to celebrate our ability to do so, this film seems to question whether or not we’ve gone too far. King Kong is a call to repentance, a call to return to a sense of wonder and awe. It is also a warning that if we continue our attempts to shackle nature, as Denham attempted to do, sooner or later it will come back to bite us.

With such a strong environmentalist message embedded throughout the film, I was a little confused as to why Jackson retained the original film’s final line about how it “’twas beauty that killed the beast.” Clearly, it wasn’t beauty but greed that was responsible for Kong’s death. Or, in another character’s words, it was Denham’s “unfailing ability to destroy the things he loves.” Perhaps this was simply a case of sentiment trumping theme. The real question, though, is where our unfailing ability to destroy comes from. Why this love/hate relationship with our environment? Why are beauty and wonder so often overcome by fear and greed?

Such questions recall another classic tale of Man and Nature—the story of man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. God’s final curse, uttered just before Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden (Genesis 3:14–19), illustrates that their disobedience has ruptured their relationships on three levels: God and Man, man and woman, and Man and Nature. Where there once was harmony, trust, and love, there now exist conflict, distrust, and hatred. Where Man formerly could relax and enjoy the bounty of Nature, he must now toil for every scrap.

Not a pretty picture. But the story doesn’t end there. If it took an act of disobedience to rupture these relationships, it follows that an act of obedience may make them right again. So perhaps our inner “Carl Denham” doesn’t have to win the day. All we need do is unleash our inner “Anne Darrow.”

Copyright @ 2005 Kevin Miller.


(Return to Top)

Send this article to a friend.

Home | Explore God's Love | Explore Your Faith | Explore the Church | Who We Are
Reflections | Stepping Stones | Oasis | Lifelines | Bulletin Board | Search |Contact Us |

Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org