As an amateur film historian and horror film buff, I've probably seen the original black and white version of King Kong (1933) a minimum of eight or ten times. Additionally, I have seen the two remakes (one released in 1976, the other in 2005) several times each. I can't get enough of them.
And as an unabashed aficionado of giant monkeys, I confess to regarding all three versions as wonderfully entertaining, including the much-maligned remakes. If I were forced to quibble, my biggest complaint with the 1976 version (starring Jeff Bridges) would be its attempt to come off as "campy," and my complaint with the 2005 version (Naomi Watts, Jack Black) would be its overuse of CGI. Succumbing to the availability and versatility of computer technology, they simply ran wild with their depiction of the dinosaurs.
Even though I think it's unwise and grossly unfair to over-analyze adventure stories (after all, these movies are meant to entertain, not to be the basis of grad student seminars), there is, nonetheless, one element of the "Kong" films that has always bugged me. It's the wall itself.
I've never objected to the film makers being unable or unwilling to explain how Kong -- and Kong alone -- arrived on Skull Island (apparently without the benefit of parents or other members of his species), or how we were automatically to assume this giant ape was a male and not a female. Just because he coveted the woman (played, in succession, by Fay Wray, Jessica Lange and Watts), didn't necessarily mean this ape was a "he." The attraction could have been evidence of the maternal instinct.
In truth, I didn't sweat any of the small stuff. I didn't worry about who Kong's parents were, how he got there, where he came from or how long he had been a resident. Not knowing these details not only didn't interfere with my enjoying the movie immensely, but I've always resented whiny nitpickers who claim that the lack of a cogent explanation ruins the movie for them. I've always viewed that objection as little more than self-aggrandizing bullshit. But the wall is a whole other deal. The wall really bothers me.
Simply put, this wall -- this barrier that the natives of Skull Island had so painstakingly erected -- made no sense. It wasn't logical. The problem? Given how strong and athletic Kong was shown to be, there was no way in hell that this fence (made of wood and mud) could possibly keep a world-class climber like Kong from scaling it. Ain't no way. He'd be over it in a matter of seconds.
But let's not be so judgmental. Let's assume for a moment that this wall succeeded in doing what it was intended to do -- namely, preventing this giant, marauding ape, the dreaded Kong, from entering the village and molesting its people. Preposterous as it seems, for the sake of argument let us assume that the wall actually worked, that Kong couldn't jump it, and that the natives were safe behind it.
Alas, this raises a question: Why on earth would the villagers have installed a giant gate in it? If Kong had no way of getting inside, why would they arrange a convenient means for him to do so? They can't have it both ways, can they? Either the wall is effective or it isn't. If it isn't, the natives are toast. If it is, there's no reason for a friggin' gate. As a "King Kong" enthusiast, that has always bothered me.
David Macaray is a playwright and author (It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor)