PG-13 Dir: Peter Jackson | Universal | 187 min.
Review By: Christopher Bligh | January 28th, 2012
Plot: What’s it about?
In the mid-90s, director Peter Jackson strived to do an updating of a classic tale that inspired him to go into filmmaking but certain difficulties put the project on hold and made room for the director to display his great vision directing the Lord of the Rings trilogy taking a massive risk filming all three parts consecutively after each other and resulting in many Academy Awards and many appreciative fans at the box office. With this great result came the great responsibility of re-energizing the project of a voyage, an island and an unbelievable discovery to the wonder known as King Kong.
It’s the 1930’s and the nation is in a Depression. Even the actors and actresses scrape up some work, that is until one prominent vaudeville show closes and actress Ann Darrow has nowhere to turn to. At the same time, director Carl Denham (Jack Black) is struggling with studio executives on his latest project and when news is overheard of firing him, he makes a run for it with a chartered ship and his film. Before he sets sail, he encounters Darrow on the street to cast her in a role open thanks to many being unavailable. With this part and the addition of a playwright Darrow admires (Adrien Brody), the course is set but Denham has other plans when an uncharted island comes to his attention and an amazing discovery is made.
With the original being a classic gem, and the seventies having it’s moments (with the exception of the literal taking of the title in the third act), this version is the most cinematic and the most visual in scope of all three. It’s in color, it’s shot wide, and it has development and activities in all three parts. The first takes us to the introduction of characters on land and on the sea. The second takes us to the island of fog and the surroundings of that which pave the way in its developments for the third part which many (but a few) know.
One of the best things Jackson has done with the piece is correcting the error that updating Kong in the seventies and even Godzilla of the late nineties made, which is setting the story in the present. This time around the setting takes Kong back to the period that the original was made along with a few surprises and advances in visuals taken advantage of greatly.
All cast members had itself nicely to this piece with Watts as the pretty actress, Black as the director with a intriguing resemblance both in reptutation and struggle as a young Orson Welles and Brody as the playwright mixed into the mess of things. Additional praise is given in the form of Andy Serkis as he does a great job doing double duty as a crewman and as Kong. One factor that this viewer felt was a positive but one suspects might have kept viewers away from the film is the length. To some, a film slightly over three hours can test the attention span. In the hands of Peter Jackson and his crew, however, a plus is utitlizing the length to the degree that would make it difficult to make something shorter or edit something out. If the Lord of the Rings taught viewers anything, it’s that time in a Peter Jackson film is valuable and used very wisely.
Updating a classic can either be difficult to top or impossible to manage. Somewhere in between, King Kong did something that was impossible at first but is a success. It updates the story in the best possible way without giving in to boneheaded dialogue and missed moments. It also doesn’t become a product of the modern time but it also paves the way again visually for he and his special effects crew. Nothing looked obvious and it’s another fine job indeed by the WETA bunch.
Overall, it’s a big screen movie and a helluva experience from start to finish. King Kong is at the top of the film building and running off a fine execution that rarely cries for a check on the watch.
Video: How does it look?
The 2.35:1 anamorphic treatment on the retelling of King Kong is amazing. There’s hardly a flaw or any over brightness in colors throughout the entire film. With recent films including visual effects, there are some side effects left on the look of the picture but not this one. All colors have a nice balance and even in the darker scenes the look of the film remains constant without being obvious to the cry that “It’s a visual effect!!! LOOK!!!!”. Although the credits can be a task to read at the end, it doesn’t take away from the overall quality on the DVD.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track captures every effect and every musical cue in every channel dividing greatly amongst the surround channels and balancing the dialogue and effects very nicely with the score and effects taking up the majority of the outer channels. And when there is a roar or a thud, prepare to be jumping out of your seats with the volume up and hanging by your fingernails on your couch, sofa or favorite seat. Even the orchestra in the third part can get anyone popping up. A very nice job audibly indeed. This disc also has English, Spanish and French subtitles as well as disc 2.
Supplements: What are the extras?
On disc one, the closest thing that comes to extras are the making of a Volkswagon ad that features scenes from Kong as well as the ad itself along with a spot for an online film series called Wish You Were Here. This is where the single disc ends.
As for this 2 disc special edition, the second disc starts with more extras starting with an intro by Peter Jackson describing the supplements leading into the sequel to the production diaries which is the Post Production diaries where the elements of effects and the release are covered in a countdown to the weeks until the official release of the film to theatres. Once again, with some fun and covering of some great “did you know this” elements, the Post Production diaries cover tremendous ground along with the last diary leaving a clue for a possible future with the big guy once again in this form. These can be seen in order of sections or a play all function with two other mini documentaries.
The Post Production Diaries are followed by the fifteen minute documentary about Skull Island: A Natural History where cast and crew play along as experts of this uncharted isle along with Kong’s New York 1933 that takes a more historical look at the New York portrayed in this updating.
Unfortunately, one flaw of the production diaries has not been resolved here and that is the inclusion of any of the trailers for King Kong itself, a bad habit amongst the studio which finds room for lesser titles to be given the trailer treatment but not their hits. Hopefully, if the last post production diary rings true, maybe the trailer possibility could become a reality.
With a tremendous panoramic eye and a great flow from one moment to the next with the right mix of buildup, execution and anti-climax, Peter Jackson’s King Kong successfully updates the hairy wonder in another great addition to the telling of the tale of the being known as Kong. The DVD gives a decent amount of supplements for a 2 disc but leaves a viewer slightly hoping for more, like a commentary or at the very least trailers. With what is included however is pretty solid to say the least and it comes very well recommended over the single disc release.
- (2.35:1) Aspect Ratio
- Video Codec: MPEG-2
- Audio: Dolby Digital
- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scene(s)
- Digital Copy
- 2 Disc Set