This DVD has been handily crafted to give us the full experience of what it took to get this movie on to the big screen.
No Director's commentary?
In my opinion King Kong was the best film of 2005. I truly felt that Peter Jackson made a film that captured the imagination, while at the same time kept the soul of the original version intact. Jackson never got lost amidst all the spectacle he was creating. In fact, every step of the way he seemed to layer the characters of the film, so that by the final act we can just watch the action unfold without wondering if what we are seeing is germane to the character in question. In fact, so solidly cast was this film that in many ways this large budget movie felt like a couple of different films. At once it was a big budget, effects laden movie and a small personal film about an unlikely love connection.
What really helps King Kong is the fact that everybody involved took the situations in this movie seriously. The story is really quite simple, a film crew, on location in Skull Island comes face to face with King Kong, dinosaurs and other beastly creations. Eventually, Kong is captured and brought back to the US by the unscrupulous filmmaker who led the Skull Island expedition in the first place. Yet, what nobody knows is that Kong has formed a relationship with the young lady everyone thought he kidnapped. Put on display for the world to see, Kong eventually breaks loose, is reteamed with the woman he loves and ultimately dies because of it.
While I know I have told the story in simplistic terms, I am able to do this because the storytelling in King Kong itself was so clear.
The Volkswagen Touareg & King Kong
Alright, we start by going overboard. This a behind the scenes look at the making of a commercial for the Volkswagen Touareg, which was the car used by crew members on the King Kong shoot. Essentially, it seems like all the effects that have gone into making the movie are being utilized in this 30 second commercial in which today's car is transported back to the 1930s.
Introduction by Peter Jackson
A rather involved introduction in which Peter Jackson sits down and tells users how to handle this DVD. He talks about why certain things are on these discs and also gives viewers an overview about how to utilize specific features. For instance, lets say with the production diaries you don't want to watch all of one effects shot, just a specific facet of it, Peter Jackson lets you in on how that can be accomplished.
Kong's New York, 1933
Mixing talking heads with archival footage we get to see how New York City looked during the depression. In order to achieve the look of this film a lot of research had to be done. Rather then compile it and just let it show itself within the confines of King Kong, this in-depth featurette about America at that time plays like something we might see on A&E. We are given insight into what life was like at that time and how, for many people, it was a day to day struggle to get by.
Skull Island - A Natural History
Okay, I somehow fell for this until I read online that this was a mock documentary. I wasn't totally convinced, but I was curious enough to have to pause this movie while it was playing and go online to make sure that it wasn't real. I guess that just means that the creators of this portion of the DVD did their jobs really well, right? This looks at the lore of Skull Island and really comes off like something we might see on the History Channel. While at times I found this to be a tad slow, overall I think fans of the movie will like it.
Production Diaries #55-#90
This is where Peter Jackson really shows his understanding of DVDs and today's diehard DVD fan. He knows that lovers of King Kong and fans of the large, spectacle movies he likes to make want to see the "behind the scenes" goings on on his films. They want to understand how the shots came off, they want to see the stars acting in their roles, and essentially, they want the whole process demystified because by doing that they will have a deeper understanding and connection with the film in general. These well put together Production Diaries more than accomplish that.
2.35:1 - Widescreen. Having watched this movie on the big screen and now on DVD, I have to say that if you didn't see this movie in the theater than you missed out. This isn't to say that it is lacking something on DVD, it's just that this is a really big movie. To be honest, I watched this DVD on a 9" TV set so I wasn't really doing myself too many favors. However, the transfer of this DVD is crystal clear and all the images look really well compressed. In fact, even small things happening in the very background seemed like they showed up when I watched this DVD. I can only imagine how this might look on a big screen television or in one of the new DVD formats.
English - Dolby Digital 5.1. Sadly, with one speaker on my TV, I don't think I got the full experience. It didn't even come close to what this movie felt like in the theater. Again, I think this has more to do with the system it was screened on than with the actual DVD itself. Sound on a movie like this is of paramount importance, and every effort seems like it has been made to bring the experience home. Unfortunately, one needs a really good system to get that full effect.
The iconic shot of King Kong op of the Empire State Building fighting off planes that are trying to shoot him down, is a very strong image and that probably explains why it is the only image on this two disc DVD set. It is surrounded by a black border with some white text. The two discs that make up this set are nicely housed inside this packaging and there is some more artwork inside as well. There is a listing of all the special features (where they are and how to access them) and some more information on this movie. Overall, of the discs available for this film, I would highly suggest getting this one.
While I didn't think Jack Black was awful in this movie, he is certainly it's weakest link. I just always felt like he was acting. In a movie like School of Rock, Black is giving a performance but he seemed engaged within the character. He didn't seem like he was acting. In this film, I just felt that he was out of his depth. Almost as if he was cast for a number of reasons that have more to do with market research and focus groups, than for any amount of acting skill that he has. I do think that Jack Black is very talented, but I also feel that his skill set was not strong enough to play filmmaker Carl Denham.
Truthfully, this movie is so big that it is really an ensemble piece with the relationship between King Kong and Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) being at the forefront. In fact it is very interesting that Naomi Watts wasn't nominated for a Best Actress award, considering how rich and full her performance is and she was essentially acting against nothing. The scope of emotions she was able to extrapolate here really says a lot about her depth as an actress.
All in all, the highly anticipated King Kong DVD is a well put together, two disc set that gives viewers a great movie, a well rounded look at the making of the film and a solid history lesson about the time in which it took place. It is missing a few things that fans of the film and Peter Jackson are going to miss, but I think that overall this two disc release should satisfy many people.