King Kong

King Kong (2005)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Jamie Bell, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks
Extras: Commentary Track, Video Commentary

Hot on the heels of his success with "The Lord Of The Rings" Trilogy, Peter Jackson set about in 2005 to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams – remaking "King Kong." For countless years he had announced his ambitions to make the film as he had acquired the rights early on, but never did he actually have a chance to bring the project to fruition. With the multi-billion dollar Middle-Earth success under his belt however, the deck was squarely stacked for him and off he went to remake one of the greatest films in movie history. Here now is Universal Home Entertainment's Blu-Ray version of the movie, offering both the theatrical cut as well as a longer Director's Cut on one disc.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a filmmaker with more ambition that actual talent and while he has managed to talk studio executives into financing his projects in the past, in the face of the Great Depression even he gets the ax. Desperate for one break-through success, he steals his most recent footage from the studio and sets out to create the movie to define his career. Out of money and out of luck he runs into Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), a starving stage comedian, and hires her on the spot, promising her fame and fortune and sets out on a ship that he hired to find an undiscovered island that he had heard about.

When they find the island, it is not the experience they had envisioned, though. While it is exotic and offers Denham ample opportunity for incredibly rare footage, it is also a death trap. Ann is take hostage by the hostile natives and offered as a human sacrifice to the most ferocious beast on the island – Kong, a gigantic gorilla. Kong takes Ann with him into the jungle, a rescue team form the ship hot on his heels, but instead of devouring the woman, Kong seems strangle attracted to her – in fact, one could say he falls in love with the blonde beauty. Ann realizes this when Kong keeps protecting her from the dangers of the jungle – and there are countless, ranging from dinosaurs to giant insects and humongous bats – and develops an attachment to Kong as well. Just when things seem to look up, Denham and his men make a mess of things, determined to capture Kong and take him to New York for riches and fortune.

When "King Kong" first hit theaters the overall tenor was that people felt the film was too long. I did not share the sentiment at the time and I do not really share it now. Running over 3 hours it is a long movie, indeed, but in order to develop the story properly, to show how the bonds between Kong and Ann develop, and in order to insert the action scenes to keep the momentum going, the film inevitably has to have a certain length. and not once did I feel the movie was dragging because even the moments of pure character development are well paced and interesting. The film – by definition – also consists of two parts, each of them practically a three act story in itself, also requiring time accordingly to properly develop through.

"King Kong" is marvelously cast with Naomi Watts giving a wonderful performance that is perfectly matching the scope of the movie as well as the time of its setting. Jack Black also shows that he certainly has acting chops, as his portrayal as the driven and borderline nutcase filmmaker is dead on and wonderfully despicable in its self-centeredness. Rounded out by many other great cast members, the film feels organic despite the fact that it is ultimately a special effects super-orgy with computer generated imagery at its center.

Regarding those effects, arguably Peter Jackson and WETA have pushed technology into new realms with "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy and are able to reuse the technology here for maximum effect. The action scenes are furious and will leave you breathless with Kong the undisputed king of the film from his first appearance to the bittersweet last frame.

After having been released numerous times on DVD and on HD-DVD also, finally the movie is here on Blu-Ray also. It offers a sparkling widescreen transfer that is marvelous to behold, rich in texture and detail, with bold colors that literally leap off the screen and black levels that are deep and solid throughout. In short it is among the best, as you would expect.

It also comes with a DTS 5.1 Master Lossless Audio track that is every bit as bombastic as the movie, with incredibly aggressive and active surrounds as well as a frequency response that runs form the lowest basses to the highest frequencies without distortion.

In terms of extras, the Blu-Ray version includes a commentary track by Peter Jackson as well as his co-writer Philippa Boyens. This track is limited to the extended cut, however and not available on the theatrical version. It is a very detailed commentary that shines a lot of light on the technical side of the production but doesn't leave out the difficulties of bringing this classic back to the big screen.

Also included is a video commentary shining more light on the production of the movie. It is, in essence, a potpourri of moments from he various featurettes that were part of the previous DVD releases, giving viewers all the information in a slightly more condensed way while also offering it up directly within the context of the movie at any given time. Not a bad choice, actually.

"King Kong" is looking every bit as good as you could expect. A high definition presentation that is flawless, offering both versions of the film, as well as some insightful extras, you can't go wrong with this release. If you want to see the film in all of its glory, it is time to upgrade!