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Peter Jackson's King Kong Makes the Rounds

Why make a King Kong film now? You have to ask Peter Jackson. Why is a white woman still held in high esteem by a gorilla? Why is a white woman in a white dress walking through the streets of New York in 0 degree weather to find her 'Kong'? Why a group of white men, one white woman , one Asian man and one black man on a boat to the mysterious 'Skull Island'? Why recreate a group of spirit possessed black islanders (New Zealand Maori) subdued by the militarism of a ship's primarily whitecrew and captain? Why now? Why Kong?

Peter Jackson does say he was attracted to this story since he was 12, and his first project was rejected - until he made Lord of the Rings. Then he was asked what he wanted to do next. Kong gave Jackson the opportunity to work with the special effects of Lord of the Rings , and all that dinosaur flesh rolling over and over, with safty insects sucking up the men provide plenty of material.He denies that this is a film about sexual love, just that Kong takes a liking to a white girl, after he's consumed hundreds of black girls. And its just THIS white girl, because he tosses all the other lookalikes to a deep death when searching for Ann (Naomi Watts). Ann does cartwheels to impress Kong, and all he can come back with is knocking her down over and over which gives him a real chuckle. When she challenges him, he feels emasculated, pounds his chest and fists and gets hit with a rock that falls on him from his rage attack. After that, she's gotten to him, and he's captive. The theme of the film, according to scriptwriter Jackson: "beauty destroyed the beast! The day Ann met him, he was a dead "man", captivated, says Jackson. Perhaps it is the day Kong met the character played by Jack Black who wants nothing other than to exploit him. Black could probably play Orson Welles, if he wasn't such a poor actor in this film.

What comes to mind when watching this movie is film professor (University of Warwick) Richard Dyer's masterful study White, on the representation of white people in film, and the history of 'white' in culture.

"White people are not literally or symbolically white; nor are they uniquely virtuous and pure. Racial imagery and racial representation are central to the organisation of the contemporary world but, while there are many studies of images of black and Asian people, whiteness is an invisible racial position. At the level of racial representation, whites are not of a certain race. They are just the human race, a 'colour' against which other ethnicities are always examined", writes Dyer.

This does not mean that King Kong is 'racist'. Its 'racial', it uses race tropes, primarily white and black. By looking at how these tropes are used we can get a better sense of images are endowed in film , particularly images of 'white' people. Who is contrasted against these seemingly 'normative' images of whiteness? Its impossible to ignore the racial tropes, and since Kong has been recycled many times, trotting out a new version exposes the story to how it follows its predecessors. As for Kong...he's black.

Note how Watts is lit in the scenes where her whiteness is constrasted with the darkness of Skull Island, and islanders, and Kong. And the scene where she finds Kong in NYC, wearing only a white gown.

As for giving new heights to the new tale, a modern Kong may have scaled the WTC, but in the original story, this was the Great Depression, and the Empire State Building was the tallest edifice to challenge Kong. The opening scenes of the film about time period promised something that just never was delivered. Jackson just got sucked into the story, his kind of story anyway.Gigantic scenes, marvelous effects. But even if CGI advances approach 'religious'levels, film has always had that effect, from the trains rushing at 1895 audiences causing panic. Film has that power. As King Kong makes its way around the globe, it will amaze.

Moira Sullivan, Swedish Film Critic's Association, FIPRESCI

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