Easily one of 2005’s strongest films, Peter Jackson’s King Kong opened to rave reviews and celebrated a worldwide intake of over half a billion dollars. Since its original DVD release, which saw a single and two-disc release at first, while a larger three-disc extended edition set followed a few months later, the film has gone on to move and entertain viewers who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Peter Jackson’s dream project play out before their eyes. Now with the Blu-ray release, fans of Jackson’s epic can see every little hair on Kong’s body as he moves about the fantastic jungle island and later through New York City as we witness the end of the beast’s great journey.
Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) brings his sweeping cinematic vision to King Kong. Get ready for breathtaking action in this thrilling epic adventure about a legendary gorilla captured on a treacherous island and brought to civilization, where he faces the ultimate fight for survival. Starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, and Andy Serkis.
I hadn’t seen King Kong since its original DVD release and despite enjoying it, I never gave it a second viewing, mainly because the three hour film really made for a sore butt. I hesitated at the extended cut that later came out (although it’s only twelve minutes longer) and until now I’d never seen the film again…but watching it again for the first time in nearly four years (hard to believe it’s been that long), I have to say I was really a great deal more interested in the film this time around.
Of course that may be because I’m not quite so prejudiced against Jackson this time around. Back in 2005 I was still way into Star Wars and at the time Lord of the Rings was like the series that took the limelight away from the Skywalker clan and for whatever lame reason I projected that onto King Kong. Now that I’ve long since grown out of that phase, I can look at King Kong (and Lord of the Rings) much more objectively and see the films for the brilliant pieces of work that they are. Speaking of which, where the hell are the Lord of the Rings Blu-ray’s? I want them! Different studio I know, but still…
I think what made King Kong such an excellent movie was that Jackson really took the time to get us invested with the human cast. While we knew full well that Kong was going to take center stage once he showed up, really getting to know who the Watts, Brody and Black characters were helped fuel the drama that engulfed the latter New York City portion of the film. I didn’t even expect to warm up to the characters as much as I did going into the film, but Black’s role especially went from being the “Wow, they cast Jack Black in a three hundred million dollar picture?” to someone you could genuinely warm up to, even if that character really wasn’t the greatest person in the world.
But, as previously mentioned, Kong was the star of this film and boy, did he shine. Through the magic of Andy Serkis’s movements, Kong came alive like you could never have imagined and the subsequent battles with dinosaurs and the obligatory bi-plane shoot out were some of the very best action sequences to grace the medium in a long time. Not to mention the CGI was simply some of the best; mix it all together with incredible acting from the cast and absolutely flawless directing by Jackson and you have one of the most riveting action films of the past decade.
If you’re one of the few people who have yet to lay eyes upon Peter Jackson’s epic King Kong, now’s the time. This was the title that was championed for the HD-DVD format and sold as a pack-in with the XBOX 360 add-on, so that alone should give you an idea of how fantastic this film is. Of course the HD-DVD format also failed, which is why I’m reviewing the Blu-ray version now, but still. Overall this film is Highly Recommended and is truly one of the greatest drama/action films to come out of Hollywood in a long while. I, like most everyone else, eagerly await Jackson’s next big film (whenever that may be), but until that happens I’m perfectly content with watching King Kong a few more times.
Universal has released a curious version of King Kong on Blu-ray; the extras here are nowhere near as in-depth as the three-disc release from 2006 and if you own that edition you may be hesitant to upgrade to this less-than stellar Blu-ray release (in terms of extras, anyway). The disc itself comes in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with an embossed cardboard O-ring slipcase and User Guide for the features of the film.
So how does this film look? Well…spectacular, really. The VC-1 encoded transfer is probably one of the cleanest and breathtaking transfers to grace the format. It’s no surprise that the film retains its superb visuals from the HD-DVD release and the previously mentioned shots of Kong alone are enough to cause your jaw to drop. I will say that the increased visual clarity does make some of the green screen work a bit apparent, as Naomi Watt’s character during the Kong/T-Rex sequence looked a tad bit out of place in the lush CGI landscape. But that’s just a minor nitpick, as, for the most part, the film really offers up one of the greatest visual transfers for the format, which is saying something with the hundreds of Blu’s already on the market.
The audio here is also an upgrade from the HD-DVD version, with a full DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offered for this film. The track absolutely engulfs the room in sound and every time Kong puts his foot (or fist) down the room is sent shaking. It’s a remarkably entertaining and exciting transfer that is about as exciting by itself as the visuals that accompany it. In addition, a French and Spanish DTS 5.1 track is also offered, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
The extras…well, here’s where the disc falters. The Commentary with director/co-writer Peter Jackson and co-writer/co-producer Phillippa Boyens comes from the three-disc release and is really engaging and well worth a listen. This film was clearly a passion project for Jackson and he and Boyens effortlessly pass the three hour and twenty minute run time of the extended cut with relative ease; without a doubt this was the highlight of the three-disc release, so it’s nice that it was at least included here.
For the rest of the extras…well, there are some Art Galleries and twenty-one behind the scenes segments available in the Picture-in-Picture area of the U-Control, but other than that this disc is empty. This could have very easily been a two-disc release with the vast amount of goodies that the original DVD release contained and to not have them here as well is deeply disappointing; it’s nice we got the extended cut and commentary, of course, but…really? None of the extras from the three disc release made it over? Very disappointing.
As with the HD-DVD release, the Blu-ray release isn’t exactly the definitive version of the film when it comes to bonus material, but it is a damn fine looking disc. Granted, one has to look at the bigger picture and decide whether they’re going to watch the bonus material that often to warrant picking put the DVD version over the Blu-ray release, but even if they’d just included the two bonus discs from the Deluxe Edition, I don’t think anyone really would have complained as the content would at least be available.
Sadly that’s not the case, of course, so those who already own the HD-DVD or Deluxe 3-Disc DVD set will have a choice to make when this film arrives on shelves. It’s certainly the best the film has ever looked and sounded, so die-hard fans of the film will want to pick it up regardless…but the casual viewers can pass this one up. Easily Skipped for previous owners, but Recommended for newcomers (who aren’t overly concerned with hours of extras to sort through).
King Kong is now available on Blu-ray.