With his movie about to be taken out of his hands, director
Carl Denham (Black) steals filmmaking equipment from the studio and charters
Captain Englehorn's (Kretschmann) ship the Venture. This is because he has
procured a map to an undiscovered island that is filled with mystery, an
ideal place to shoot his picture. All he needs is a leading lady to bring
writer Jack Driscoll's (Brody) script to life but as the Great Depression
grips New York and no one wants to work with him, Carl sees a vision of
beauty in Ann Darrow (Watts). When they finally arrive at the island, they
discover a place that is completely out of time, filled with creatures that
were thought to be extinct or shouldn't even exist and natives that worship
strongest of them all, Kong.
Hollywood's obsession with looking to the past for ideas continues
but when Peter Jackson announced he was going to remake the 1933 original
you know that was going to be a special update of 'King Kong'.
When it comes to remaking a movie that is rightly defined
as a classic of its era you need to find someone who will pay homage to
the original but be able to update it for a modern cinema audience and in
Peter Jackson you have that filmmaker. When someone confesses that the original
is his favourite film that made him want to be a filmmaker in the first
place and that he has been wanting to remake it since he was twelve years-old,
you know that you have someone who will treat the material with the respect
The best thing about this new version of 'King Kong' is the
decision that the filmmakers took to set the film in the original time frame.
The 1933 setting allows Jackson and his team to utilise the skills they
learnt on the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy to recreate New York at that time
and then really go to town on Skull Island. A modern Kong didn't work in
the ill-conceived 1976 remake and it wouldn't especially have worked now,
so a period setting was the best option and the ultimate homage to the original.
The production design on the movie is extraordinary with
the boffins at WETA throwing all of their creative skills into the frame.
The film combines the brilliant set design, astoundingly realistic miniatures
and CGI effects that raise the bar again. From the recreation of New York
during the Great Depression in the 1930s to the jungles and ruins of Skull
Island, the film looks simply stunning throughout and shows again that anything
a filmmaker can imagine is now possible on film.
The creatures of Skull Island also pay homage to era. The
dinosaurs have the traditional look of how palaeontologists and filmmakers
envisioned these creatures in 1933 and they have even included a giant iguana.
The T-Rexs, brontosaurus and raptors look like their stop-motion brethren
but with much more animation and realism that comes with the modern technology
used to bring them to life. They also go to town on the insect inhabitants
of the island to create a sequence that is not for the squeamish. This is
the film at its most frightening and the reason for the 12A (PG-13) certificate.
The King of the creatures however is Kong himself. WETA digital
and motion capture performer and star Andy Serkis set the standard with
Gollum in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy but with Kong they have raised
the bar to an unprecedented level. The huge gorilla looks real and is again
brought to life via the brilliance of Andy Serkis. Peter Jackson's virtual
performer of choice dons the motion capture suit again to create the movement
for Kong but it is the facial capture technology that really brings the
character to life. This gives Kong a personality as he reacts to situations
and creates a bond with Ann. These attributes make Kong the star and the
battle hardened, lonely gorilla now has an even more emotional bond with
The human actors are much more fleshed out than in the original.
Now with more than an hour worth of development time in the act, taking
place in New York and on the Venture we become more invested in the characters.
Jack Black's Carl Denham is a man obsessed with his film and is willing
to sacrifice anything to get footage that will make his name. It could have
been so easy to make Denham the over the top villain of the piece but Jack
Black makes him a character might be the most reprehensible person on the
screen but he is one that you can't take your eyes off. In a change from
the original Jack Driscoll character, Adrien Brody now plays the character
as a screenwriter and not as the Venture's First Mate. This is a real leading
man role for the Oscar winning actors and he does an excellent job in creating
a 30s style screen hero with a heart. Kyle Chandler is excellent as 30s
film star Bruce Baxter, who is obsessed more with saving his own skin than
recreating his onscreen persona. Colin Hanks as Driscoll's assistant Preston
and Thomas Kretschmann's Captain Englehorn are not as developed however.
There is also a strange subplot about the relationship between Jamie Bell's
Jimmy and Evan Parke's Hayes, which serves nothing to the main story and
is completely forgotten about as soon as they leave Skull Island.
The star of the show however is Naomi Watts. Taking on one
of the most famous female roles in screen history was always going to be
an arduous task for any actress but she proves again that she is one of
the best actresses working in Hollywood at the moment. Ann Darrow's interaction
with Kong has to be the heartbeat of the film and if it didn't work, neither
would the movie but Watts makes the relationship believable and plausible.
She sees the giant gorilla for what he is, a lonely animal who just wants
some company and it is the actress's skill to portray emotions to nothing
(because the CG Kong wasn't there during filming of course) that makes the
character so understandable.
The film isn't without its problems however. The three hours
plus running time might be far too long for some people to watch in one
sitting at the cinema. The New York/Venture character development of the
first act doesn't all seem necessary and makes the film quite slow at first.
The Skull Island sequence is slightly overlong with one too many set pieces.
Also you can tell that the film needed a little more postproduction time,
as some of the CGI isn't as good in some scenes as it is in others, especially
when it comes to hiding the fact that most of the scenes were shot against
green screens. The film's main failing is inherent of all remakes of classic
movies, you know what is coming. The shortcomings of the original story
also come to bear, with the lack of backstory about the history of the island
been the most obvious failing.
'King Kong' is a labour of love for Peter Jackson and his
team. While it might be slightly over indulgent in parts and in length,
this still proves that the director is on his way to becoming a cinematic
genius that he has already been labelled by some. Kong is as big a movie
as the gorilla himself and shows again how big budget event movies should
be made. The film is worth seeing for the final act alone as Kong rampages
through New York and driven to scaling the Empire State Building. The visual
effects for this sequence are quite simply stunning and some of the best
ever put to film. This is a monster movie on every scale and one that shouldn't
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen
2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1, the movie is presented extremely well,
highlighting the fantastic visual effects and sound design.
(DELUXE EXTENDED EDITION)
King Kong: The Extended Version (197 mins)
As he did with the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, Peter Jackson releases
an extended version of the film on DVD but unlike the Middle Earth tales
the added scenes add little to the story. They do however boost up the
action quota. The main extended scenes take place on Skull Island, with
the introduction of another dinosaur attack, a brilliantly exciting raft
sequence that will have you on the edge of your seat and an extended version
of the Kong vs. T-Rex fight. There are some extra character driven moment
on the Venture as well and some extended scenes with Kong raging through
the streets of New York. These added scenes contribute little to the overall
story, unlike the extended 'Rings' movies but it does make the film even
better. The added action scenes on Skull Island make you connect more
with Jack Driscoll and the rest of the rescue party and it is always great
to see more of Kong smashing things up and fighting.
With the film been spread over two discs as well, the picture quality
seems better than the first release and the visual effects seem to have
been worked on a little more as well, getting rid of some of the noticeable
blue/green screen boarders that were so apparent in the cinematic and
first DVD release. Overall this is the complete version of Peter Jackson's
'King Kong' and the one that every fan should own.
Director/writer/producer Peter Jackson and writer/co-producer Philippa
Boyens provide a commentary that tries to fill in the gaps that the documentaries
missed. As usual the pair provide an interesting, informative and fun
commentary as they talk about casting, the actors, filming in New Zealand
again and the influence Kong has had on both of their careers. With many
behind the scenes secrets revealed this is a commentary track well worth
Deleted Scenes (46.33 mins)
Entitled 'Preston shows Ann her cabin', 'How a man dies', 'Jack has doubts
about Ann', 'Ann chooses an outfit', 'Hayes confronts Englehorn', 'Preston
finds the map', 'Dancing the gig', 'The rest of the Venture voyage', 'Lumby
and his cabbage', 'Scream for your life Ann', 'The Venture escapes (original
version)', 'Hayes Story', 'A sailor's bad luck', 'Original insect pit
opening', 'Kong chases Jack's cab' and 'Kong versus the Army', these deleted
or extended scenes are introduced by director Peter Jackson.
The Eight Blunder of the World (18.52 mins)
A collection of extremely funny outtakes and blunders from the cast and
crew that includes a guest director, someone getting an action figure,
a new score and Jack Black having loads of fun.
A Night in Vaudeville (12.16 mins)
Choreographer Shona McCullagh introduces the Vaudeville acts that performed
during the opening 1933 New York sequence.
King Kong Homage (9.56 mins)
Director Peter Jackson, production designer Grant Major, WETA supervisor
Richard Taylor and stars Jack Black and Andy Serkis reveal how the 2005
version pay homage to the original. Here we see how lines, sequences and
even props from the 1933 Kong make it into Peter Jackson's new version.
The Missing Production Diary (8.15 mins)
The one that got away from 'Kong Is King.net' sees Digital Assist Operator
Luis Olivares harassed by Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Colin Hanks and Andy
Serkis as they become addicted to watching their own performances on the
replay monitors. Hilarious.
Watch the computer generated pre-visual storyboards for 'Arrival on Skull
Island', 'Bronto stampede', 'T-Rex fight' and 'Empire State Building Battle'
The Present (9.26 mins)
During the production of 'King Kong' the cast made a special Birthday
video for director Peter Jackson. With Andy Serkis and Jack Black secretly
filming with the help of the entire cast, they give the director a present
he will never forget.
Watch the teaser, theatrical and Cinemedia trailers for 'King Kong'
WETA Collectables (5.18 mins)
Director Peter Jackson and WETA supervisor Richard Taylor take you behind
the scenes of the making of the WETA collectable that accompany the film's
1996 & 2005 Scripts
Place the DVD in your PC and you can view or print out the script from
both versions of the development of 'King Kong'
Introduction by Peter Jackson (2.32 mins)
The director/writer/producer of 'King Kong' introduces the special features
on this DVD set.
Recreating the Eighth Wonder: The Making of King Kong (186.41 mins)
Director Peter Jackson, writer/co-writer Philippa Boyens, WETA supervisor
Richard Taylor, production designer Grant Taylor, animation director Christian
Rivers and stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Colin Hanks, Andy
Serkis, Thomas Kretschmann, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell and Lobo Chan take
you behind the scenes of the entire production of 'King Kong'. Split into
sections entitled 'The Origins of King Kong', 'Pre-Production Part 1:
The Return of Kong', 'Pre-Production Part II: 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', this documentary covers every aspect of
film's production and is up to the same standard set by the brilliant
Lord of the Rings bonus features. From the original 1996 preparation for
Peter Jackson's first attempt at bringing Kong back to the silver screen
to starting the production in 2004, the documentary covers everything
not shown in the Production and Postproduction diaries released previously
on DVD and on the Kong is King.net website. Here we see the design concepts,
pre-visualization, miniatures, set design, the making of the Venture,
Skull Island, the dinosaurs, New York and of course the creation of King
Kong. This is absolutely superb and a must watch for fans of the film
and fans of cinema alike.
Video Galleries View conceptual designs from 'The 1996 King Kong', 'The
Venture', 'Skull Island', 'New York' and 'Kong'.
When it comes to producing special edition DVDs Peter Jackson is up there
with Ridley Scott. As he did with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Peter
Jackson and his creative team have gone above and beyond when it comes
covering every aspect of a movie's production. Add to this the extended
version of the movie and you have the ultimate version of King Kong and
the one that fans have been waiting for. This is a must buy.
(DOUBLE DISC VERSION)
The Volkswagen Touareg
and King Kong (2.03 mins)
Go behind the scenes of the VW advert that was recorded to promote the
vehicle used by the crew during the production.
See more of NYC in 'Wish
you were here' (1.43 mins)
Watch an advert for the New York City website
by Peter Jackson (3.30 mins)
The co-writer/director introduces the bonus features on the DVD release
of 'King Kong' and how to navigate the menus.
Post Production Dairies
(2hrs 32.37 mins)
Originally posted on the 'Kong is King' website this collection of thirty-five
mini featurettes cover all aspects of the postproduction of Peter Jackson's
monster movie. Just like 'Production Diaries' that were released on DVD
before films release, the diaries are introduced and presented by the
director himself and as well as the stars of the film, he is accompanied
by the many teams and individuals that were involved in putting the finishing
touches to the film. The diaries look at pickups, miniatures, visual effects,
sound, music and premieres over a thirty-three week period. These can
be either viewed in week order or you can watch them by department and
category. Like no other movie before it, this offers the fan unprecedented
access to the postproduction of a major Hollywood production.
Skull Island: A Natural
History (16.55 mins)
Director Peter Jackson, writer/co-producer Philippa Boyens, production
designer Grant Major, conceptual artist Alan Lee, WETA chief designer
Richard Taylor, supervising art director Dan Hennah, conceptual designer
Jeremy Bennett, senior designer - creatures Ben Wootten, special makeup
effects supervisor Gino Acevedo and creature designers Christian Pearce,
Greg Broadmore and Daniel Falconer talk about the real Skull Island in
this mockumentary. Here we look at the history of the island, looking
at its animals, dinosaurs, insects, flying rodents and the civilisation
that inhabited the island. It also looks at the king of beasts, Kong himself.
Kong's New York, 1933
Director Peter Jackson and writer/co-producer Philippa Boyens are joined
by historians to talk about America and New York in 1933, the time that
the film was set. The featurette look at the impact of the Great Depression
when over 1.5 million people were unemployed and many of them lived in
'Homerville's' around the city, with the biggest in New York. This is
an interesting featurette but it doesn't offer you enough information
about the other aspects of the era, such as the buildings, fashions and
vehicles of the time.
The two-disc collectors edition
of 'King Kong' is filled with some good bonus features but you can't help
thinking that a bigger, director's cut or special edition will be released
later. The lack of a commentary track and a documentary about the history
of the character etc, makes you think that another release is coming.
This aside, the release is still very good just because of the quality
of the postproduction diaries and fans should be pleased with this DVD,
especially if another edition doesn't come along.