Peter Jackson’s King Kong: A Female-Lead Adventure Film?

When I first watched this movie in the theater, I did not like it. It dragged on for far too long, had that bizarre romance, and the whole bit with the natives was all sorts of wrong. Ten years on, I can articulate issues with the film even better but that’s for a different post, or for CinemaSins.

My recent rewatches has firmly set the movie among my favorite popcorn-munching flicks. Mostly because of Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, but we’ll get to her in a moment. Let’s start with some smaller appreciations

Such as Andy Serkis – okay this is not a “small” appreciation by any stretch of the imagination. Serkis is a star actor and his performance both as the cook and Kong are fun to watch, the latter especially in light of his astounding role as Caesar in Planet of the Apes.

Speaking of Kong, I love the CGI in this movie. Sometimes it looks wonderfully real, and sometimes you can taste the greenscreen, and that’s what makes it fun. Like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the obvious CGI fits the movie’s style.

Among the realistic CGI are the creepy crawlies and I love that they didn’t just go with spiders and centipedes, though both of those do make brief appearances. Instead we get Jerusalem Crickets and Whip Scorpions, a couple of creative choices. Also I give applause to Jackson for not having the predators roar before attacking on a hunt.

And we have Ann Darrow. The woman with a steel rod for a spine. Not just in terms of her courage, of which she has much, but in all realism she should have been dead from whiplash twenty times over in this film. It’s because of Ann Darrow that I believe this movie is a female-lead adventure film.

It’s not Jack’s struggles to write a play or Carl’s struggles to make a film that is the centerpiece of the movie. It’s Ann and her struggle to survive and live that is the center of this piece. She’s the first character to which we are fully introduced. We know her dreams and needs before we ever meet Carl or Jack.

Throughout the movie we find she’s clever, a quick decision maker, and tenacious. These all benefit her, help her to survive Skull Island’s dangers, and put her in the good graces of the ape. Yes, she screams a lot and is often in need of rescue, but she is one woman on her own without supplies. The men only survive as long as they did because they were in a group with weapons, rope, and other necessities.

Ann is also more than a survivor. She’s a protector. Some of this is in a more traditionally feminine way, but I hardly think that discounts her status.

“I make people laugh, that’s what I do,” she says, a defining line for her. She doesn’t want to make people cry, she wants to be an emotional guard for them. Something to keep them going.

Once Kong and the crew of Venture collide, this protector aspect becomes more apparent. She urges Jack to run once Kong awakens. She tries to prevent the crew from capturing the ape, and when it looks like the crew will be killed by Kong, she tries to give up herself to protect both parties. Even her actions in New York, in calming Kong, seems to be more than just reconnecting with the ape, but also defending Jack and other civilians from his rage.

Ultimately King Kong is Ann’s movie.


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