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)