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Peter Jackson
Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell, Lobo Chan
Writing Credits:
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Merian C. Cooper (story), Edgar Wallace (story)

The eighth wonder of the world.

Academy Award-winning director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) brings his sweeping cinematic vision to King Kong. Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody star in this spectacular film filled with heart-pounding action, terrifying creatures and groundbreaking special effects unlike anything you've seen before! 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.

Box Office:
$207 million.
Opening Weekend
$50.130 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$217.619 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 187 min. (Theatrical Cut)
201 min. (Extended Version)
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 1/20/2009

• Both Theatrical and Extended Cuts of the Film
• Audio Commentary with Director Frank Peter Jackson and Co-Writer Philippa Boyens
• “U-Control” Interactive Feature


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


King Kong [Blu-Ray] (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 2, 2015)

After the enormous success of the three Lord of the Rings films, director Peter Jackson could take on his dream project: a remake of 1933’s King Kong. This project almost got off the ground in the late Nineties, but it didn’t happen and the Rings trilogy took priority.

The Rings series made Jackson an “A”-list director and allowed him to write his own ticket. Thus his Kong became the common choice as the big flick of 2005. It hit the screens with glowing reviews and predictions that it would dominate the box office and earn serious Oscar consideration.

However, Jackson’s Rings success wouldn’t quite repeat itself. On the surface, Kong did well. It made $217 million in the US and grabbed four Academy Award nominations.

Those were all four the usual technical categories, though, and these days $217 million just isn’t a great take for this kind of blockbuster. Really, anything short of $300 million rendered Kong a disappointment, so it came up decidedly short of its anticipated goals. It ended up fifth in the year’s box office charts, a spot lower than most people anticipated.

Unfortunately, all of this seems to have affected the public perception of Kong. Before release, it looked like it’d be an unqualified hit, but now the naysayers appear to dominate. Box office success or failure clearly impacts on the way people view the movie itself, and now it looks like lots see Kong as a lackluster flick.

Balderdash, say I. Not for a second will I claim that Kong doesn’t suffer from some flaws, but I think the whole package adds up to a very satisfying experience.

Set in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, we meet adventurous movie mogul Carl Denham (Jack Black). He wants to film another spectacular but he runs into a mix of problems. For one, he lacks a finished script, as writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) hasn’t completed one. Denham also hasn’t found a leading lady, and his financial situation makes it tough for him to do much about any of these situations.

However, Denham’s fast-talking savvy allows him to sucker Driscoll, charm and cast vaudevillian ingenue Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), and escape on a boat just ahead of the dudes to whom he owes money. Denham plans to take them all to a fantastic location called Skull Island. There they encounter vicious natives and an assortment of prehistoric beasts.

Among them they find an enormous gorilla referred to as Kong. Ann ends up in his clutches, and the others lead an attempt to rescue her. The movie follows their pursuit and subsequent drama.

Since I think many now view Kong in a negative light, let’s start off with the film’s problems. The flick’s main drawbacks stem from its length. I don’t think that a running time of more than three hours is a flaw in and of itself. To be sure, that factor didn’t cause concerns during the Rings pictures.

However, Kong really does drag at times. Most of the slow spots turn up in the plodding first act. The expedition takes forever to get going, and that’s one area which the original Kong excelled. It zipped through the exposition to get us to the fun. It told us just as much as we needed to set up the characters and situations, but it didn’t tire us with those elements.

The 2005 Kong falters in this area. I don’t know if I’d say it bores us during the first hour, as there’s enough interesting material to keep our attention, but I will admit the flick tests our patience.

The fact many of us already know the story doesn’t help. It’s not like we aren’t aware where the journey will lead, so we want to get there even more quickly. Perhaps Jackson’s pacing pays off in ways I can’t see and the second and third acts would work less well without the long build-up, but I imagine the flick still would’ve succeeded with less exposition.

Once our characters finally get to Skull Island, however, the movie improves radically. Jackson gets to indulge his love of over the top action and he does so with all the skill he displayed in the Rings movies. I won’t say that Kong is a non-stop rollercoaster ride for its last two hours, but it sure pours on the thrills.

Key among these is the spectacular “V-Rex” fight. I don’t want to discuss its specifics too explicitly as I want new viewers to see it without much foreknowledge. That’s how I examined it theatrically, and it made a big difference.

The flick took this battle to incredible heights and left my jaw on the floor. I couldn’t – and still can’t – get over the amazing level of action and power Jackson packs into this sequence; I’d argue it’s one of the all-time great segments of this sort.

Not that the rest of Kong’s second and third hours disappoint. The film offers a great level of action and drama as it pursues its familiar story. Jackson may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to the movie’s plot and characters; both change a little from the 1933 flick, but this isn’t a radical reimagining. Jackson does bring the film more in line with modern styles, though, and manages to turn the action into something special.

That’s what ultimately makes the 2005 King Kong a winner. The film lacks the innovation of the original, and its excessive running time means that it lacks that flick’s popcorn-chomping consistency. Nonetheless, it recovers from a slow first act to become a memorable experience. Kong isn’t Peter Jackson’s finest hour, but it achieves most of its goals.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A+/ Bonus B-

King Kong appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Virtually no concerns emerged during this excellent presentation.

Sharpness looked terrific. At no time did I discern any instances of softness or ill-defined shots. Instead, the movie consistently came across as nicely accurate and concise. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. The movie lacked any examples of print flaws. I witnessed no specks, marks, or other defects during this clean and smooth presentation.

Kong often went with a restricted, somewhat golden tone. The movie rarely featured bold colors, as it usually went with subdued hues. Even the greenery of Skull Island looked a bit pale. I didn’t regard this as a problem, though, since the disc clearly replicated the movie’s intended visuals. The colors were appropriately vivid when necessary and seemed accurately depicted.

Black levels also came across well. Dark shots demonstrated good depth and clarity. Low-light shots were nicely displayed and seemed clear and adequately visible. Shadow was clean and tight. Given the darkness of so much of the film, those components became especially important, so their high quality was an important factor in the success of the transfer. Overall, the image of King Kong appeared stellar.

And the audio didn’t disappoint either. At all times, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of King Kong worked exceedingly well. The soundfield appeared very active and involving. All five channels presented lots of material that kept the viewer at the center of a realistic and immersive world. Elements seemed appropriately placed and they blended together well.

Planes and flying creatures soared from location to location accurately, and other pieces popped up in their proper places too. The whole thing meshed together quite nicely, and the piece worked swimmingly. Not surprisingly, fight sequences were the most impressive, but the entire package seemed strong.

Audio quality equaled the positive nature of the soundfield. Speech was natural and distinctive, and I detected no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and vibrant, as the score presented rich and full tones. Effects came across as accurate and concise. No problems with distortion appeared, and these elements were clean and broad.

Early returns indicated that the soundtrack might be a “sub killer”, a mix with bass so overwhelming that it could decimate subwoofers. I didn’t see that as the case, though. My sub isn’t a great one; it’ll pop and sound like it’s on the verge of exploding when it takes on louder tracks. That’s usually due to mastering issues, though, as it almost always results from overcooked bass.

Was the low-end loud? Without question. Was it overcooked and too heavy? Not in the least. The mix featured clean, concise bass at all times. The low-end was smooth and extremely effective. At no point did it threaten to dominate the audio, as the bass fit in with the rest of the track well. All of this combined to make the soundtrack of Kong a complete winner.

How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to the film’s DVD version? Both offered improvements, especially in terms of visuals. The lossless audio packed a bit more kick than the DVD’s mix.

While I thought the DVD looked flawless for its format, it couldn’t compare to the pleasures found here. The Blu-ray provided a notably more concise and accurate representation of the film. The DVD’s still nice, but the Blu-ray became the definitive presentation of the film.

Only a smattering of the DVD’s extras repeat here. The Blu-ray provides both theatrical and extended cuts of King Kong. The former runs 3:07:22, while the latter goes for 3:20:07. I tried to discern the additions and noticed more than a few as I watched the extended cut.

Happily, the disc offers annotations in its chapter menus that tell us which scenes are new or lengthened. That helped confirm my observations and simplify the process.

The most significant changes come during the film’s second act. On Skull Island, we get two new action sequences. There’s a “Ceratops Attack” that takes place right after the guys arrive to find Ann. We also get “The Swamp Journey”, a fight with sea creatures a little later in the flick. Both are fun to see, though I don’t know how well they fit in the final film. While they’re exciting and entertaining on their own, the movie includes so many similar scenes that it runs the risk of making the viewer shout “enough already”.

However, that’s not a strong sentiment on my part. I like these two scenes and think they fail to harm the film. Do they make it better? Probably not, but they’re enjoyable.

Those are the two most prominent additions. The rest of the new bits come from small clips. We see a little more of the men bickering as they decide what to do after their first encounters with the dinosaurs,

Late in the film, we hear a soldier sent to kill Kong as he rants about how New York is for people, not “lice-ridden” apes. This scene is moderately comic but not particularly interesting. It’s somewhat jarring, in fact, due to the soldier’s crassness. That segment probably should have stayed on the cutting room floor.

At the end of the “Insect Pit”, we see a new bit on Skull Island in which Denham starts to lose it. He rambles about how when your life flashes before your eyes, “if you’ve lived as a true American, you get to watch it all in color.” This is one of those neutral segments; it’s vaguely interesting but not memorable. We also get a short snippet called “Encountering the Moa Bird” in which Lumpy’s itchy trigger finger leads to the death of an ostrich-like creature on Skull Island.

Kong’s capture goes longer, and in New York, we watch more of Kong’s rampage and his chase of Jack. Neither of these additions seems particularly significant to me.

The “Extended Edition” adds 13 minutes but continues to function in the same manner as the theatrical cut. It integrates the new footage seamlessly and makes all of the bits feel natural. I don’t think the “Extended Edition” improves on the theatrical cut, but it doesn’t come of as any worse, so it provides an interesting option.

Along with the film’s extended cut, we get an audio commentary from director Peter Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. At the start, Jackson notes that he wants to avoid covering the same subjects addressed in the DVD’s documentary, so I worried he might stick with minutiae. I needn’t have worried, however, as the pair touch on a nice mix of subjects.

Jackson and Boyens discuss sets and production design, story issues and development, musical choices, issues with the shooting schedule, various historical references and influences, cast and characters, visual elements like costumes, wigs and color design, effects, adaptation concerns and sequences added for the “Extended Edition”, and various trivia about the flick.

Jackson and Boyens offered nice chats for the three Rings flicks, and that trend continues here. They give us good information from start to finish of King as they make sure they stay focused on the appropriate subjects. There’s little chaff on display during this meaty, informative and entertaining discussion.

In addition, the disc gives us U-Control, an interactive feature. It provides two separate functions. An “Art Gallery” occasionally presents concept art– and I do mean occasionally. The first images don’t show up until around the 24-minute mark, and we only find “Art Gallery” segments 10 more times. This adds up to a handful of sketches and that’s it.

“U-Control” also offers a “Picture-in-Picture” feature. This gives us quick video segments that pop up periodically. These include shots from the set and comments from Jackson, set dresser Gill West-Walker, props buyer Phred Palmer, supervising art director Dan Hennah, director of VFX photography Alex Funke, pre-production CG supervisor Matt Aiken, prop maker Tony Drawbridge, Weta Workshop design and effects supervisor Richard Taylor, VFX on set supervisor Brian Van’t Hul, senior SPFX technician Geoff Curtis, mo-cap technician John Curtis, 2nd unit director Randy Cook, production designer Grant Major, Weta animation director Christian Rivers, Weta motion editors Ileana Stravoskiadi and CJ Markham, Weta mo-cap supervisor Dejan Moncilovic, Weta lead creature TD Rudy Grossman, animation director Eric Leighton, previsualization department Richard Moore, Weta senior animator Stephen Buckley, movie memorabilia collector/extra Bob Burns and wife Kathy, 2nd 2nd AD Skot Thomas, stunt double Min Windle, and actors Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts, Jack Black, and Andy Serkis.

These are essentially “production diaries”, as they show us elements from behind the scenes. They cover subjects like sets, stunts, effects, props, performances, and other topics. Though they pop up less frequently than I’d like – and the disc makes it a minor chore to access them without watching the movie – they do contribute a fair amount of information, so they’re worth a look.

Unless you already own the Extended Edition DVD. That package includes all of the material found here and a whole lot more. While the Blu-ray features some good information, it doesn’t compete with the treasure trove found on the DVD.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong seems destined to be perceived as a disappointment in many ways, but I don’t think it deserves such a fate. Though the movie sags during its first act, the excitement and thrills of the subsequent two hours make up for its flaws. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture and audio as well as useful supplements. It’s too bad the Blu-ray omits so many of the DVD’s bonus materials, but in terms of movie presentation, it becomes the strongest rendition.

To rate this film visit the original review of KING KONG (2005)

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main