Sunday, December 18, 2005

17 Kislew 5766/18 December 2005: Bake Cookies Day


Reminder: Enter The Weird Thing of the Day Dune Fantastic Religion Contest for a chance to win fame and glory, and to get to pick the weird thing of the day for a week.

Today’s weird thing is a movie review which was generously submitted to me by someone trying to save me effort, included below. Enjoy.


Many of you, no doubt, have seen the latest remake of King Kong, this time by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. This version, which is more closely based on the original than the last one, has gotten considerable praise from critics. In certain respects, the new film is an improvement over the old, with much better special effects and further development of the characters of Kong and Ann Darrow and the relationship between them. It also has some flaws which critics have pointed out, such as the extreme run time (over three hours), adding too much material before Skull Island is reached and too much extreme, ridiculous action once on Skull Island, not to mention the large number of redshirt deaths.

One problem the critics have not mentioned is the treatment of the Skull Islanders. In the original version, Skull Island was inhabited by people who were largely constituted of stereotypes of “primitive” people current at the time. Despite this, the depiction was not entirely negative. They were not initially hostile to Carl Denham’s party and were quite willing to negotiate a trade for Ann Darrow. This is not to say they were correct in regularly giving young women to Kong, but we must remember their situation. This was not a pointless ritual as in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” They had, after all, built a giant wall and still did not feel safe from the giant gorilla on the other side, quite likely with good reason. Faced with either giving the lonely ape the occasional companionship or likely gruesome death, under these circumstances many of us would opt to compromise our morals.

This is not the case with the new film. Instead of humans, Jackson imported a number of orcs from Lord of the Rings to inhabit Skull Island, and the effect was quite different. The orcs were disagreeable from the start, immediately killing a few redshirts and kidnapping Ann Darrow without offering even one, let alone six, women in trade. They were rude, nasty, dirty, had unattractive facial piercings, and the only one to talk was a wrinkled old woman who apparently lead the ceremony for giving her to Kong, and then it was only an untranslated monologue. Unlike the inhabitants in the original version, the orcs in the new version are a completely negative and unsympathetic portrayal. Rather than expand on the events in the original film and show human beings acting desparately to appease a force with which they are constantly threatened, Jackson instead turns them into even greater monsters. This was cruel and unwarranted.

Among the many references to the original film was in the Broadway presentation of Kong. In this version, a number of people dressed in constumes come out and dance in a purported reenactment of the sacrifice of Ann Darrow to Kong. The appearance of these dancers is like the Skull Islanders in the original, and the ceremony from the original is turned into a farce. The undercurrent here is that Jackson does not take their plight seriously and treats them as a joke. He has made us sympathize with a twenty-five-foot gorilla, but when it comes to his fellow human beings, the magic is mysteriously lacking.

K. K.
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