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Universal Studios Home Video presents
King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition (2005)

"I'm offering you money, adventure, fame, the thrill of a lifetime, and a really long sea voyage!"
- Carl Denham (Jack Black)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: November 21, 2006

Stars: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody
Other Stars: Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Evan Parke, Lobo Chan, Kyle Chandler, Andy Serkis
Director: Peter Jackson

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (frightening adventure violence, some disturbing images)
Run Time: 03h:21m:00s
Release Date: November 14, 2006
UPC: 025193167927
Genre: fantasy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-AA A

DVD Review

For this "deluxe extended edition" of Peter Jackson's King Kong, it's not so much the inclusion of 13 minutes of previously cut footage that's the selling point of a film that theatrically was already over three hours. Don't get me wrong, the addition of something like the swamp attack sequence—with its gigantic slithering underwater creature attacking the crew of the Venture as they raft along a brackish river—is fun stuff, pure monster movie schtick done with high-grade special effects. Ditto for the homage back to the original 1993 Kong via the charging Ceratops scene, another popcorn-munching bit of escapism resurrected for this version.

Despite the heaping mounds of criticism that the original theatrical release was already too long—that the New York and Skull Island segments went on and on—didn't stop Jackson and Universal from attempting to continue the tradition started with those Lord of the Rings extended sets. The issue is that this extended cut doesn't necessarily revitalize Kong the way The Fellowship of The Ring was able to do, so instead what's here is just a longer cut by those 13 minutes. The new stuff is good—yet not wholly essential—and on its own probably not enough to really make a double dip a requirement. There aren't any plot-shifting revelations—it's still about a big ape and a pretty blonde—and the new material just seems like add-ons, as opposed to more depth.

The core essentials are still here of course, with Carl Denham (Jack Black) leading an ill-fated expedition to Skull Island, where beautiful blonde Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) will catch the eye of a giant ape, all leading to one of filmdom's most lopsided love triangles, ultimately played out atop the Empire State Building. The grandeur of the visual effects—especially during elements like the battle with the T-Rex family—are as thrilling and exciting as anything in recent memory, and the creation of Kong as a believable living, breathing entity is handled with exceptional technical skill. And for me, that makes the runtime not so much of an issue.

Yet for a film that could be eclipsed by the massive weight of its own visual effects, the performance by Naomi Watts comes through with all the right mixture of spunk, fragility, and radiance that Jackson needed for a leading lady forced to often play against green screens. Watts makes it easy to see why Kong went so ga-ga, and when stacked against the near mugging of a strangely miscast Jack Black as Carl Denham there is very little comparison between the two. Though as enjoyable as Watts is, it eventually comes to down to how exciting the adventure and journey can be, both on Skull Island and eventually back in New York.

But you know all that. This is, after all, King Kong. We get it. Big gorilla. Blonde girl. Tall building. Yes, there's padding already built into the theatrical cut, and the extended version goes that one better by tacking on those additional 13 minutes. The selling point for this three-disc set is the slew of strong supplemental material (more on that below), which on its own makes a nice compliment to not only the Production Diaries, but the original two-disc version.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer matches the quality of the previous release, with an array of strong, vibrant color and deep blacks throughout. With the title split across two discs, there's less chance for major compression issues, and here there are well-defined edge details and a great degree of image sharpness. The print itself is spotless, and some extremely minor edge enhancement can do little to negate the beauty of this one.

Excellent.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: No rumored DTS here, just a nearly identical Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was found on the previous release (obviously the new footage would be the difference), though this time there are also French and Spanish options, too. Very active and very aggressive, the sense of movement during the action scenes is dramatic, and the expected showcase moments like Kong's roar is worth playing loud.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 53 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
16 Deleted Scenes
Screenplay
2 Documentaries
9 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
3 Discs
3-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This three-disc set from Universal is packaged in a thick clear plastic Scanavo case—with a slipcase cover—with Disc 1 on the inside left, and Discs 2 and 3 sharing the right half of the case. Also included is a two-page insert booklet outlining what's found on each disc.

Disc 1 carries the first 29 chapters of the feature (01h:20m:20s). We also get the first segment of the full-length commentary from writer/director Peter Jackson and writer/producer Philippa Boyens. As shown on the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings, Jackson knows how to give good, fan-friendly commentary, and that continues here. Whether he's discussing the simplicity of building a giant water tank, to creature design or his own computer illiteracy, Jackson seemingly has a relevant piece of information for nearly every aspect of the production, and this is a really easy listen, full of the kind of detail that make rewatching this three-hour, twenty-minute version worthwhile. Boyens input isn't quite as balanced—in fact a couple of times the info Jackson is relaying is clearly news to her, too.

Under the King Kong Archives section—that's where the extras are lumped—on Disc 1 there's a set of 16 deleted scenes (46m:23s), available with individual optional Jackson intro, as well as an overall intro from the director to the entire block of clips. The scenes are shown with green screen backgrounds often intercut with animatic footage, and there's a bit of the Kong vs the Army and a longer piece inside the insect pit. The Eighth Blunder of the World: The Missing Production Diary (08m:17s) is a wacky bit, focusing on Jack Black demanding to watch playbacks of his scenes, and includes a fake fight between him and Colin Hanks. A Night in Vaudeville (12m:06s) compares some vintage vaudeville clips with how the production team wanted to portray those same style of acts during the opening montage. King Kong Homage (09m:57s) should really appeal to Kong buffs, and is meant to show the similarities between the original and remake, offering up clips of both films to point out how many original key lines of dialogue were used in Jackson's version.

On Disc 2 are the final block of chapters (30-53), the remainder of the extended cut (01h:59m:43s), and also the second half of the Jackson/Boyens commentary. The King Kong Archives section carries a set of four animatic sequences for Arrival at Skull Island (04m:20s), Bronto Stampede (06m:34s), T-Rex Fight (09m:52s) and Empire State Building Battle (09m:28s), available with or without music. The Empire State Building animatic also features an option to play alongside a final film version for comparison. The Present (09m:26s) may fall under the heading of cute excess, and is an allegedly secret birthday film made by cast and crew for Jackson about the delivery of a very special, very mysterious pink package. WETA Collectibles (05m:17s) made me drool with all of the Kong-related specialty products, and I am now obsessed to get my hands on that chess set. A trio of Kong trailers—teaser (02m:33s), theatrical (02m:57s) cinemedia (02m:42s)—are found on Disc 2, and PC users and/or picky movie buffs can access both 1996 and 2005 script treatments to a compare/contrast differences all day long.

Disc 3 is where the heavy-duty stuff lies, with the sprawling detail of Recreating The Eighth Wonder: The Making King Kong (03h:06m:04s), presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Yes, that's a three-hour doc, and the optional Jackson intro (02m:32s) stresses that there isn't any Production Diaries duplication going on here. This is not fluff, not a longform EPK, but instead the kind of detailed inside look at the entire creative process that makes this set worth a purchase. Segments include The Origins of King Kong, Pre-Production Part 1: The Return of Kong, Pre-Production Part 2: Countdown to Filming, The Venture Journey, Return to Skull Island, New York/New Zealand, Bringing Kong to Life Part 1: Design and Research, and Bringing Kong to Life Part 2: Performance and Animation, and if there is an aspect of the production that isn't covered here I'm sure what that could possibly be. This is an outstanding doc, on par with the scope of content on those extended Lord of the Rings releases.

Rounding out Disc 3 is Conceptual Design Visual Galleries (41m:20s), a set of video clips of productions drawings for1996 King Kong, The Venture, Skull Island, New York and Kong.

After all of this, I don't think there is any part of the production I don't have way too much information on. And I like it.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

OK, you can accuse me of bowing at the altar of Peter Jackson extended editions, and this three-disc Kong set easily has enough extra material to warrant a double dip. It's not so much the extended edition of the film—sure, some of the new swamp/island scenes are quite good—but the three-hour documentary Recreating The Eighth Wonder: The Making King Kong should be more than enough to sway just about anyone.

Highly recommended.

 


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