Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Movies! - "It was beauty killed the beast."

The frustrating thing about Peter Jackson's King Kong is that I don't seem to know anybody who loves it as much as I do. Oh sure, it did really well with the critics, as it has an 83% on Rottentomatoes (with a lesser, but still impressive 76% with the "top critics" score). When I talk to people I know, they're either indifferent or they don't like it at all.

I need to admit something. I cried at the end of this film. I sat there while the end credits rolled and I couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. I then had to go to the store, and I continued to cry the whole way there, making it difficult for me to drive. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't loudly bawling over the thing, but I kept getting choked up and my eyes were endlessly watery. I've watched it several times since, and at the very least, I tend to get a bit choked up by the end. When I convinced my wife to sit down and watch it with me when I got it on Blu-Ray, I completely lost it once again and cried like a frikken' baby. (And while my wife doesn't hate the film, she's one more who doesn't seem to appreciate it as much as I do.)

What can I say? There's just something about this movie that really resonates with me. While I have been known to cry at a movie or two here and there, I don't think that one could say that I cry very often at the movies. I'll get to why I think it hits me so hard in a bit, but for now I just want to point that out as a reason why it's so frustrating when I can't seem to find a lot of people who relate.

The thing is, I'm aware that the film isn't perfect. It is definitely too long. Many of the subplots could be cut out, and it really doesn't start to get interesting until Kong himself shows up. Sure, you want to build up the suspense a bit for his arrival, but 30-45 minutes of suspense would have done just fine. My wife also points out that the camera is almost gratuitous in its drawn out shots of Naomi Watts. While I see that as a legitimate criticism, I just can't get behind complaining about that. Also, the film tries too hard to make all of the supporting characters interesting when they don't really need to be. It's okay to have some characters who are nothing more than fodder for the beasties of Skull Island. The bottom line though is that I don't care about all that by the time I'm done watching the film.

To be completely fair, I know that I'm not alone in the fact that I cried at the end. I do have one friend who said that he did as well, although I'm not sure if he continues to cry upon repeated viewings. When I talked to him about it, we chalked it up to our love of animals. He said that it reminded him of when he had to put his beloved dog to sleep. Being an animal lover myself, I figured that was probably the reason why it affected me so much. I still think that's part of the equation, but I later learned of another, perhaps better, possibility.

While taking one of our adoption classes, my wife and I were put into a discussion group. The topic in general was about how people deal with tragedy. Our group talked about the things that made us cry. I was very forthright in stating that I don't cry at some things that I probably should cry at - say my grandmother's death and funeral, for instance. However, certain random things have me tearing up - like King Kong. One lady in our group had such an amazing analysis of that. She said that men cry at the movie (which makes me think that she knows others who have as well - although she was a bit older and might be thinking of men who cried at one of the older versions) because they relate to Kong. They see themselves as being strong and wanting to protect the woman that they love, and when they see those instincts leading to his destruction, they can relate. I was so impressed that I asked her if she was either an English teacher or a therapist, to which she said she was neither.

I did a very brief bit of searching online before writing this to see if I could find other men who admit to crying at this movie. I didn't really find much. In fact, I only read about it as an example of what makes a man a "little bitch". I did, however, find an article by Don Feder at FrontPage Magazine's website. (And go figure, he's a total right-winger, but that doesn't have too much to do with this article.) I think that he really gets to the heart of my feelings about the film:

In a way, all men are King Kong: powerful, brooding, potentially destructive creatures waiting for a woman to touch our hearts and tame us.

And all women are Ann Darrow, simultaneously fragile and compelling, possessor of the magic to transform primitive males (monsters-in-waiting) into protectors and the builders of families and civilizations.

But, the movie seems to say, modernity can be the undoing of both. It seeks not to civilize but to shackle male instincts. It turns love into a sideshow attraction. It pulls men and women apart.

He's right. Crying at King Kong doesn't make me a "little bitch". It makes me a goddamn He-Man is what it does. In all seriousness, while I don't completely think that modernity is the evil that Feder does, I do know that there is much about it that goes against some of our natural (and perhaps baser) instincts, and there's definitely an inner conflict there in all of us.

I realize that I've already written so much without going into all the other things I like about it - primarily how it accomplishes the near-impossible task of making a relationship between a woman and a giant gorilla both believable and not creepy. I guess if you want to read about why it's good, check out Roger Ebert's review. According to him, it was one of the year's best films, and he also gets to the heart of the matter when he writes:
I think the film even has a message, and it isn't that beauty killed the beast. It's that we feel threatened by beauty, especially when it overwhelms us, and we pay a terrible price when we try to deny its essential nature and turn it into a product, or a target.


Nolan said...

I would say I like it. I own in on dvd, but haven't watched it all the way through since the theatre because I can't bear to watch that first hour again. Perhaps I'll be inspired by this to take it on again.

Oh, and you're definitely not a "He-man" for blubbering about it. After my "Marley and Me" experience, I can't play the "little bitch" card, but you're definitely not somehow more manly for weeping. Sorry. Some traditions must stand.

Ingrid said...

I think the reason we cry is because we love animals. We understand that they are helpless, even if they are wild they are innocent and at man's mercy. We just feel deeper than other people, Lance.