KING KONG (EXTENDED SE)
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
It's the classic 'beauty and the beast' tale (plus dinosaurs of course!) that we all know and love, only this time it's told with the technology of modern filmmaking. Peter Jackson's "love letter" to his favourite classic movie is given the deluxe treatment, with 13 minutes added to the film and a Kong-sized load of extras.
Is it good movie?
I've never liked remakes, but there are two things that I do like. Peter Jackson and King Kong. The original film is a testament to the magic and talent of filmmaking, and in Jackson's skilled hands, this new version of Kong is just as groundbreaking. Almost every single aspect of this movie screams "epic". The love story on screen carries an emotional weight that echoes the timelessness of the original, mostly due to the performances of Naomi Watts and the brilliant Andy Serkis as Kong. The dinosaur action scenes are simply amazing, the Skull Island villagers are creepy as f**k, and the faithfully recreated final sequence is both gorgeous and exciting.
Now, I know this film catches a lot of flak for being too heavy in the front end and taking too long to get to the actual 'goods', and it does, but for me the pay off is worth the damn ride! Much like Jackson's extended editions of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, the extra footage has a place and makes a contribution to the film. There is more time spent on developing what could easilly be stock charcters, there are two new creature scenes (a rampaging styracosaurus and a wicked underwater sequence with a giant alligator beastie), and in fact the whole movie just seems more complete when compared to the theatrical cut. I mean, in film time, 13 minutes is a hell of a lot of extra footage! And while the film is weighty and epic, it still shines with moments of Jackson's brilliance as a visual filmmaker. There are even some touches that remind a rabid horror fan like myself of his earlier days making balls-to-the-wall gore flicks (those swamp worms eating Andy Serkis's head...now that's what I call cool!).
But the true meat of this 3-disc set is the monstrous amount of extras and featurettes that are included, which in total are almost twice the length of the damn movie! It's clear from every aspect of this boxset (and there are a lot of them) that King Kong is a very personal film for Peter Jackson, and for everyone else involved. I'm still not sure how I feel about Jack Black being cast here, but I'll take the good with the bad, as long as I've got a Giant Freaking Gorilla. That's what it really comes down too. If you love Kong, how could you not love this version?
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1.
Audio: English, French & Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1) with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
Settle in folks, because this might take awhile:
On Disc One we have an Audio Commentary by Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens, which is never dull and touches on many different aspects not covered in any of the other documentary material. Bonus! There are also 16 Deleted Scenes, each with optional introduction by Jackson explaining why they were cut. Next we have The Eighth Blunder of the World (18:50) which is a collection of bloopers. There is a small documentary called A Night In Vaudville (12:06), which includes archival footage and auditions for the opening sequence, and rounding out the disc is a Homage To King Kong (9:57) which shows us the various references, original props and direct lines that Jackson included in his version of the story. Also, look for the Missing Production Diary which was not released on the internet. Kind of cute, in an obsessive way...
Disc Two continues the commentary from the first disc, along with three Trailers, an interesting look into the making of the line of Weta Collectables from the film, and DVD-ROM Scripts from both the abortive 1996 version of Kong Jackson was planning and this new version. Also on this disc are four Pre-Visualization Animatics, which are fascinating looks into the creation of visual effects and digital storytelling, and the short film "The Present", which was shot by the cast for Jackson's birthday.
And now we come to Disc Three, where after a short Introduction by Peter Jackson we are presented with the massive, feature length documentary Recreating The Eighth Wonder: The Making of King Kong (3:06:35). This is a comprehensive and fascinating look at the making of the film, from the pre-production and planning for a 1996 version of Kong that was never made, through to the rushed development of this version directly after the end of the LOTR trilogy. This documentary is broken up into eight smaller sections (The Origins of King Kong, The Return of Kong, Countdown to Filming, The Venture Journey, Return to Skull Island, New York - New Zealand, and the 2 part Bringing Kong To Life, with Design and Research and Performance and Animation) and they are all highly enjoyable. The final one is most notable simply for showing the dedication and physical brilliance of Serkis, who throws just as much of himself into this role as he did into Gollum. Another poignant part is Jackson's visit with original Kong star Fay Wray, who was to play a cameo in Jackson's film until she passed away suddenly before filming began. And finally, the third disc is capped off with a series of Conceptual Design Video Galleries (41:20), which showcase some of the thousands of pieces of artwork created for Jackson's vision.
For fans of both the original 1933 classic and Jackson's modern re-telling, this set is a required addition to your collection. Both films stand as the technological benchmarks of their respective eras, and there is enough on these three discs to keep Kong fans occupied for days on end. Revisiting this movie is almost as fun as snapping a T-Rex jaw....well, I wouldn't know, but Kong sure makes it look fun....