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King Kong (2005) Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 January 2009
ImageKing Kong has permeated our culture through music, film, television and print.  However, it’s the films that draw the most attention.  The original film came out in 1933 and has since become a classic, reference in more modern films than easily countable.  In 1966 the animated television series was born, lasting only one season.  In 1976, King Kong was re-made into another film.  However, this time it was to less acclaim.  Hollywood must not have felt that the saga was done enough, so in 2005 Universal released King Kong again.  Unfortunately, it is probably the biggest stinker of them all.

“King Kong” is a film that lacks ingenuity (ok, it is just a re-make) and a cohesive and concise story.  Sadly, “Lord of the Rings” director, Peter Jackson, could not make this film into a true hit.  The film relies heavily on horrible CGI effects.  The film was loved before it even hit theaters, which also contributed to its thud when it hit the ground.  From the get-go I couldn’t wait for the film to be over.  The story was lame and it drug on forever.  It felt like the opening 30 minutes were three hours long.

Basically, the story follows the original.  Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is a struggling actress in the 1920s.  She longs to be a comic actress, Charlie Chaplin in fact.  Jack Black plays Carl Denham, a filmmaker whose only talent is being a complete a-hole.  Somehow he is able to recruit Darrow, some crew, and a popular writer, Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), who just so happens to love Darrow.

Once some horrible scenes aboard the ship are over, the crew crash lands on a skull island.  Shortly thereafter they are captured by nasty natives, with bones shoved through all sorts of body parts.  The natives serve Darrow up as the main course for the Kong.  Denham lacks all humanity and only cares to capture the beast and take him back to the states to open his own show.  Then there is this whole part in the middle where Darrow bonds with Kong and the crew try to capture Kong and Driscoll tries to rescue Darrow.  Somewhere in there, Kong protects Darrow against some T-Rex dinosaurs that happen to exist on the island despite their extinction millions of years earlier.  Kong fights them for what seems like an eternity.  I kept thinking, “Will this ever end?” Finally, the crew are somehow able to lug the beast aboard their ship and magically appear back in the States.  That would have been the most interesting part of the film, but of course impossible so it was just skipped.  I guess we have to use our imagination there.  The rest is history.  Kong escapes from the show in New York and goes on a rampage, leading to a devastating, but extremely welcomed, end to the film.

The CGI is perhaps the worst I have seen in any movie, past or present.  The canyon run with the crew, dinosaurs and falling boulders is simply horrible.  All the objects appear to be on the same plane.  There is no depth whatsoever, and not a single member gets hit with a rock or trampled by a dino.

The only thing that was interesting was the production value of the real scenes and objects.  It was quite rich.  But, that is about it.  Bummer.

“King Kong” first came to HD DVD.  That version only contained the original theatrical cut at 187 minutes.  The HD DVD release yielded a five-star video rating, no question.  The Blu-ray arrives with the same 1080p VC-1 transfer.  Nothing has changed.  The video quality is still impeccable.  However, the Blu-ray now gives us the choice between the theatrical version or an extended version that contains an insufferable 13 more minutes of footage.  The additional footage is seamlessly integrated.  Ignoring the horrid CGI, the film is still a pleasurable viewing experience.  The locations and costumes are extremely detailed and full of texture.  The colors are extremely well represented.  They are luscious and deep, providing a pop to the image.  Softness does appear, only due to the filmmakers’ stylistic choices.  The black levels are impeccable.  My only criticism with the video is the fizzy nature of the heavy CGI scenes.  While it is not a fault of the transfer, it is simply just too noticeable and distracting.  The image appears extremely flat during those CGI sequences.  Still, one of the finer presentations I have seen in a long while.  It is just too bad that the movie is poop.

Universal has blessed us with a DTS-HD 5.1 track, a tremendous upgrade from the HD DVD’s Dolby Digital Plus track.  Everything is perfect here.  The dialogue is clean and audible at all points.  The dynamic range is wide, allowing for the film to be loud and soft and still retain the minor details.  The sound effects span the entire soundscape, creating a beautiful enveloping effect.  The elongated Kong-dinosaur fight is a pleasure to listen to.  The roars are sonically detailed and the sub-harmonizer adds a tremendous low-end.  The LFE channel of your system will get a great workout during this film.

The HD DVD lacked any type of standard extras, whereas the DVD was released with myriad of supplements.  Those supplements are not present on the Blu-ray as standalone features, but have been repurposed into the Picture-in-Picture track, which is available only on the extended version of the film.  This track includes much of the basic material from the DVD supplements, primarily making-of content.  There is an audio commentary with director Peter Jackson and writer/producer Phillippa Boyens.  The commentary track is only available on the extended version of the film.  The track deals almost exclusively with a dissection of the film’s CGI effects and becomes a bit mind-numbing after a while.  The extended version also contains some art galleries.  Lastly, there is a BD-Live section that contains MyScenes and boomarking features.

“King Kong” gives us a pleasurable viewing and auditory experience.  However, that’s where this film’s positives end.  The film itself is a waste of time.  I still recommend the disc, but I can’t recommend the film by any means.

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