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1/12/2006

BEFORE YOU GONG KONG

Yes, Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong is longer than necessary. Or as one critic whined, "Peter Jackson may have lost weight, but he hasn't lost his gluttony. There is no excuse for the 3 hour and 7 minute running time of King Kong. Hollywood needs an enema, and Peter Jackson needs an editor." (Someone's cranky because his Ritalin just ran out.) And yes, the story is old and therefore predictable. Yes, it's mindless pop culture with no real deeper meaning, message or point, nothing profound.

Wait a minute. Not so fast. Nothing profound? I don't think so. Here's some of the meaning and message I saw on the screen with Kong:

1) De Vitoria would have liked Jackson's Kong. A gargantuan monkey held captive and worshipped in a primitive land where he's the biggest thing in the skyline is infringed upon by visitors with loud weapons who take him to a strange kingdom where he's dwarfed by concrete pillars and confused by frozen streets and a cacophony of urban noises. He feels attacked and justified in fighting back. A group of humans encounter Kong, who eats people and peels back flesh with his screams. He's wagging a beautiful blonde one of them around like a rag doll while smashing trees and then street cars. The humans feel attacked and justified in fighting back. A conflict ending in death results from the reasonable perception by both sides that they are the victim. De Vitoria in metaphor.

2) How many movies have been made in which the human race is portrayed as hateful. We've been portrayed in music, literature, painting and film as a species that kills what it fears and fears what it cannot control or understand. Yet we continue to dismiss this portrayal by artists as fiction. The original King Kong was made before the race riots of the 60s, for instance. As were thousands of other pieces of art laden with this simple message: love and try to understand what you fear before you kill it. Yet the killing of "negroes" still happened. This must mean that our hostility and stupidity are a deep central part of what it means to be human - the way we are born. It also points to the need for a solution art alone cannot bring - a solution that will have to go deeper.

3) We're all in trouble if perception is reality. Peter Jackson took a repulsive man-eating orangutan and made us cry when he was killed by people just like us, people reacting as we would: freaking out and opening a can of smack down on his hairy butt. How'd he do that? Are we so gullible that our loyalty can be so easily swayed from our own frail species to mighty mean Kong in only three hours? Wow, that's power. Scary power if applied to reality and not fiction.

4) It's beauty that killed the beast. How true is this? How many artists have been madmen? How many madmen ended their lives because of their obsession with a woman or an aria or a thrill in a bottle? It's the beauty of life, the pleasure and goodness that so often trips me, acts as the bait on the Devil's hook. It's a lie we tell youth groups that sin is a horrible experience isn't it? A lie. Hate to admit this but sex, even in the back seat at sixteen, feels pretty amazing...beautiful even. Drugs? They don't call it a high for nothing. That small lie that let's you keep participating in the conversation about the book you actually never heard of? Feels good to be included doesn't it? If the devil always had a forked tail he'd probably never get a date. As he is, beautiful and all, he's never home on Friday night.

5) Jackson said in an interview I read, I believe in Rolling Stone or Wired, that he didn't want "anatomically correct" dinosaurs a la Jurassic Park in Kong. He wanted them to be cool instead. And that would be cheaper as it turned out. There's something inspiring about Jackson's ability to recognize what his audience cares about and what they don't. They want cool. A story full of it. And if the story is thrilling enough the audience will be so pleased they'll never analyze the length of that big fella's tail anyway. Jackson could have forgotten that the story is what I came for and obsessed over details I don't understand or care about as much as Spielberg, but he didn't. Inspiring. How often have I obsessed over the inversion of a chord when all my audience wants is the line and melody sung on top of it? How many times have I been in a church that chooses to be anatomically correct at the expense of just telling the story? Why do pastors, for instance, not talk like people? Why complete sentences read from a lecturn? Because the anthropologists of the church - the seminary professors - told us too? Does the audience care? Is the audience focussed at all on what we're most focussed on getting right? How about the countless Boomer churches (what I call the Willow Creek Association churches) I've been to with their service producers, usually on head sets, vibrating from Starbucks, holding spreadsheets showing that the service will start with 13:23 of music followed by 2:13 of prayer followed by 1:45 of welcome followed by...And they're seriously distressed when the lighting cue, written on their spreadsheet in a different color ink, is missed by ten seconds or the lapel microphone cuts out once. I've seen these type A's flipping out like someone just went to hell because Spence the volunteer hit play on the DVD a second too late. And they have weekly meetings just to talk about how such details were blown the Sunday before. And I'm in the audience waiting to be awed by the adventure, wanting the story and I don't care if the dinosaurs wrestling the big monkey have too many toes or blink incorrectly. The story is too cool to care. The lesson to me then is: Think like an audience, not an accountant - like a storyteller, not a scientist. Invest in what people truly came for, what they need, the Story.

16 Comments:

Blogger Stephen said...

I also enjoyed Kong. Jackson made a great epic, but managed to let the story show through also.

1/13/2006  
Blogger Rica said...

I haven't seen it, and I don't plan to, but it really sounds like people are losing their money's worth over this movie!

1/13/2006  
Anonymous Mike said...

For a Christmas present to my team, my boss bought tickets for us to see King Kong. I was a little disappointed that it seems like currenty culture has to insert profanity into everything. There wasn't a lot though; a couple of GD's, and one time they called on Jesus, but not in the sense we do. :)

I thought the movie was well done, and the story was good!! There were parts that did seem to drag on, like the fight with the dinosaurs and Kong. It wasn't a bad thing though, the whole fight was awesome, and I never got bored.

I do have to admit, I did have a couple of similar thoughts that Shawn did when watching this movie. I am amazed that only ONE person in the movie actually sympathized with Kong. Everyone else seemed to be bent on killing him. Yet, for those in the theater, everyone was routing for Kong, even though we all knew what the ending would be.

Another great post, Shawn!! :)

1/13/2006  
Blogger Kat said...

I love what Bethany Dillon said about this movie on her web site:

"this is 3 1/2 hours (and 7 bucks) that I will never, ever, EVER get back."

Both my husband and I regretted going to see this movie. Yeah, the effects were cool, but that won't carry a 3.5 hour movie by itself.

So, did the whole tribal people/ritual thing not bother anyone else? I guess I just don't know how to feel about watching something that's *trying* to appear evil.

Maybe I'm just too sensitive, but I'd love to hear what you all thought about that scene...

1/13/2006  
Blogger Kat said...

Shaun,
I promise I'm not just trying to be contrary today...

But...I have to disagree with this statement:

"It's a lie we tell youth groups that sin is a horrible experience isn't it? A lie."

I don't think that's true. You can't separate a sin from it's consequence and consequences are rarely fun.

I can't imagine, although I'm sure I could be wrong, that any youth pastor would try to say that sin isn't fun. I think everyone knows sin is initially fun. Would anyone believe someone who said differently? They'd have to be pretty foolish. After all, if it wasn't fun, why would anyone want to do it?

The problem youth pastors face is that most kids only see the fun side of sin - in movies, music and magazines.

So, it would be a lie to say sin isn't fun, but it would likewise be a lie to say that it's not also a horrible experience.

1/13/2006  
Blogger ks said...

I like the post, Shaun. I always enjoy reading peoples' thoughts on movies and books. Really good insight into something most people see as shallow.

(and I'm a long-time fan of King Kong).

1/13/2006  
Anonymous utobia said...

Hey man-I love reading your stuff. You go so freakin' deep. I like your last point the best about the church service and story telling. You might find what I posted today to be of some interest. Check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks for being real.

1/13/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Sin feels good: Orgasm feels great even outside of marriage. Getting pregnant at sixteen and having to tell your mom does not.

Tribal scene thoughts: It's hard to make something scary without there being a sense that the thing we fear is evil. How does one portray evil/scary without making it...um, evil? It scared me for sure.

SG

1/13/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thought the movie was great. great review. good old fashion movie fun. i dont know what the heck beth dillon is talking about but then again she is barely old enought to get into the movie anyway. (mean smirk)

One of the impressions I got from this movie is that Jackson really LOVES movies. Peter Jackson really brings a granduer there that we miss. a sense of awe. anyone who was expecting something different than what they saw must have wandered into the wrong movie. Its King Kong. a big ape, a girl, scary island people, dinosaurs and a love story. the ape dies. the girl cries. thats the story, we knew when we bought the ticket. Most of us also knew it was a long movie. not only did Jackson deliver but delievered in such a jaw-dropping way that i havn't had that much fun at the movies in a couple of years... since Return of the King.

Seth

1/13/2006  
Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

I have to agree with Shaun, I think that sin comes as a 2nd nature for us, it's fighting it that isn't exactly fun or the consequences of what happens afterwards whether it be in sex or drugs or whatever. When we go in sinning we don't exactly focus on what's gonna come out of it we focus on the then and now and the boy-does-this-feel-good. If sin felt so bad then why do some people get addicted to certain sins? If it didn't make us feel momentary pleasure then sin wouldn't have a fighting chance in this world. It's designed to make us feel good for the moment and then leave us washed up or high and dry.

1/13/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we all actually agree. We're just talking semantics.

Sin feels good but the inevitable consequences do not.

The less we are able to separate the two, the more likely we are to avoid it.

1/13/2006  
Blogger ikon said...

The point I was trying to make in my last comment. Well, said anonymous. Thanks

SG

1/13/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was actually me. I just forgot to sign in.

Kat

1/13/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the tribal thing...

I was sitting in the movie next to a family that brought their daughters who were perhaps 6 and 8. They were obviously terrified during that scene, their parents seemed to care less and it broke my heart.

Again, perhaps I'm just too sensitive, but I really regret allowing something that brought fear to be etched in my brain. I honestly found the image of that lone tribal child standing there and staring to be frightening and I'll really need to pray that the image won't come up again sometime when my husband is out of town and I'm home alone tring to fall alseep. Feel free to pray for me on that one.

Why do we expose ourselves to things in movies that would never be ok in real life? To what extent is fictional "evil" or fictional "sin" ok?

What do you think?

(sorry for all the questions. Feel free to delete this if I'm too off topic)

kat

1/13/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i just saw the movie and loved it. . absolutely. I have no deep thoughts or spiritual comparisons. I thought it was, of course, absolutely unbelievable - but so well done that I believed it for 3 hours anyway. I cried at the end, even though of course i already knew the ending. It was such a good story that I didn't think of watching the clock. I got my money's worth - an hour's worth extra for the same price - and it was a non-stop thrill ride! Big screen fare certainly - just fabulous.

1/14/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Those are great questions, kat. Anyone have answers?

SG

1/15/2006  

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