Monday, January 02, 2006

Foul is Fair

This boast may contain spoliers for those uninitiated into the story of King Kong. If you have no idea how it ends then, please, do not read this. Go read Hamlet or Macbeth, go see the movie, then come back here and we'll talk. Thanks-DCVB

Peter Jackson said that his filmed versions of The Lord of the Rings were to be considered more Tolkein's vision than his own. For the sake argument I'm going to say he succeeded in that respect because the follow-up to that venture was indeed a vision belonging solely to the hobbitish Kiwi (though from the recent looks of him, a very svelte-hobbitish Kiwi. I guess he started taking eating lessons from Christian Bale).

King Kong shocked me in a few ways. First, as a closet-slut for entertainment news, I was shocked upon reading a few years ago that Jackson was going to re-make King Kong, something that I thought he was forced to do--but I didn't know the story. Secondly, as an employee of a movie theater (formerly, a theatre), I was shocked that the run time of the damned thing tickled the edge of 3 and a half hours. Lastly, as a viewer, I was shocked at how incredibly artful this movie ended up being, despite the fact my haunches were at least two kinds of numb. When I say "artful" I mean more of a literary artistry than a visual one (which was done beautifully--duh). Reading as much hard (as in "hardcore" or "hard sci-fi" instead of "difficult", though that may apply in certain instances) literature as I've been required to do has bashed certain archetypical generalizations into my brain that flash across my thoughts as if in an epileptic ecstasy. Throughout the film my mind twitched out such terms as "fortune's wheel," "tragic hero," "Prince of Denmark," "I can't feel my ass!" among others. It's a knee-jerk thing but it really brought to mind that Jackson, finally as a filmmaker without a point to prove, was able to take what was once (as listed on IMDb) action/adventure/fantasy/horror/thriller (in alphabetical order to boot!) and bend it into a full-blown Shakespearean tragedy with a scarred ape as its tragic hero. In all, and for the sake of being long-winded, Jackson's gargantuan Kong is a tragic hero in the same way that Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo & Juliet are.

There are only a few films that I've seen that I think can fall into the category of Shakespearian tragedy that, of course, aren't Shakespeare plays. It may sound strange, but Jackson's King Kong fits into this slot along with previous entrants being Oliver Stone's Nixon and Clint Eastwood's Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Mystic River is unique in that it is really an ensemble tragedy with more than one "hero" at the center of the plot. But that's for a different entry, I guess.

Classical Greek philosopher Aristotle, who for some reason expostulated quite a bit upon drama, delineated the tragic hero as a character that possesses the qualities of goodness, superiority, a tragic flaw, and the realization of the flaw resulting in a moment of clarity. While it could be easily argued, probably because of the fact that it's true, that Kong's tragic flaw is his gigantic ape-ness which could moot the "realization" because it begs the question, "can an ape realize that it is an animal and not the human it wants to be?"

That's hard to say being that I, and most of those reading this, are not simians.

I would argue instead that Kong's tragic flaw is his greed, his need to have what he wants. It's what makes him king on a creepy little island; that he can take what he wants and keep it from a bevy of Tyrannosaurs (despite their 3-fingered hands) is what makes Kong the cocky bastard that scares the natives of the island into submission. He does have a realization of his flaw by the end and it's the innate knowledge the audience has acquired about tragic heroes from films and plays that makes it engrossing. It's the tragic hero's realization in the story coupled with the audience's own realization that they're expecting this sacrificial behavior from a computer generated ape that makes Kong such an amazing character as Peter Jackson has imagined him.

I think by doing this Jackson has made a real step toward bringing class back to the blockbuster movie in a good bunch of movies that are doing that right now, though I think the real reason behind this is to create an Academy Award category for digital actors because he feels Andy Serkis got robbed for his role as Gollum.

9 comments:

Eben said...

Yeee-haw the boast is back...but probably going away again...
This was a sweet taste.

The Phoenix said...

Eben,
What you said...

Bethel,
I agree absolutely. Jackson rocks my face. I haven't seen Kong yet simply because I'm poor and this holiday season was jam-packed with awesomness in movies. I am ultra familar with the story however having seen the original 1938 version more times than I can count. Now I have to go see it. I must obey the Bethel!
Awesome update, anyone who would draw a ape as Hamlet rocks.

Robyn the Sweetly innocent said...

Well... I must say... A lot of stuff in that movie wasn't needed... I want a copy of King Kong prince of Denmark... Please... and go see Brokeback mountain

a.j. said...

Who really needs to see a depressing movie about gay cowboys? I mean, goodness, apparently the only contribution "gay sub-culture" has made to film in the past eight years is the overwhelming urge to kill yourself. "Fall in love on a mountain, keep it a secret until one of you meets a horrible death." I mean, seriously.

andy said...

Whoa. Apparently, I have two blogger accounts and never noticed. Weird.

Let's pretend that last comment was from me and not my evil alter ego with no blog.

Eben said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DCVB said...

Are you pimping on my blog, Burgoon?

Eben said...

I think I was drunk when I did that.

DCVB said...

Oh...That's right. I remember now. Well, since you removed your post I think I can say that everybody should join the Burgoon Bulletin at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ebenburgoon/

You'll be glad you did.