The beast looked upon
the face of beauty...
Director Peter Jacksonís KING KONG is a magnificent re-imagining of the Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack original- one that takes the very familiar story to dizzying new heights thanks to state of the art digital effects, yet the new film never loses the heart and soul of the tale, thanks to a screenplay that pays as much attention to the characterizations, as it does to the spectacle. Like his LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Jacksonís KING KONG is another cinematic triumph, albeit in a completely different way. Instead of creating a world we have never known, KING KONG meticulously recreates a depression era New York City and brings it to life in a way actual cinema of the era never could. Additionally, every aspect of Skull Island and the fantastic creatures that inhabit it are taken to the nth degree, yet they are so convincingly rendered that oneís suspension of disbelief is never shattered.
Other than some modest changes, 2005ís KING KONG follows the plot of the 1933 original quite closely, but everything contained this version is such an expansion of the original that it recreates and reinvents everything on a more massive scale. The story of KING KONG follows desperate filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black), new leading lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) to literally the middle of nowhere- in search of Skull Island, a place that has previously only been rumored to exist in the wild stories of mad seamen. Of course, Skull Island does indeed exist and what the film company and shipís crew find there is beyond anything in their wildest imaginations.
Although savage natives are the first thing our company encounters on Skull Island, they are by far the least lethal. Unfortunately, for all concerned, the natives kidnap Ann, with the intention of using her in a ritual sacrifice to Kong- the gigantic ape that they worship. After Ann is carried off into the jungle by the Kong, Driscoll, Denham and the shipís crew mount a rescue into the jungle, where they face off against, not only the mighty ape, but dinosaurs and other creatures too horrifying to be named. Annís ultimate rescue from the jungle also results in the capture of Kong, whom Denham takes back to New York, where he intends to exhibit this eighth wonder of the world as an attraction on Broadway. As expected, Kong breaks free and goes on a rampage throughout New York, which climaxes atop the Empire State Building. The cast of KING KONG also features Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks and Andy Serkis.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has made KING KONG available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. Stunning is about the best way to describe this transfer. The image is demo quality throughout and sharpness and detail are as good as it gets for NTSC. Any kind of improvement would only come at the high definition level. Colors range from a highly natural level to something more intense and ultimately appealing. Additionally the flesh tones always look good. Blacks are perfect, as are the whites. Contrast is generally very smooth and shadow detail is excellent. The picture is virtually pristine, with nary a flaw to been seen. Noticeable grain is exceedingly mild and hardly worth mentioning. Digital compression artifacts are nicely camouflaged.
Like the visual aspect of the DVD, the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is an absolute winner. All of the outlying channels are fully utilized to bring this retelling of KING KONG to amazing life. The track is aggressively mixed, which certainly makes the most of the filmís big action set pieces. Additionally, the sound design has plenty of nuance and subtlety during the quieter passages. Fidelity is first rate with all out the sound effects being exceedingly lifelike, or at the very least totally thrilling. I should also point of that the music has a rich, full-bodied sound quality that is nicely integrated into the mix. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the filmís dialogue is always completely understandable. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, the majority of which have been relegated to disc two of the set. Disc oneís supplements are trivial and bit too much like advertising. Moving over to disc two, things start off with a Special Introduction By Peter Jackson whose enthusiasm for the supplements is immediately evident. The most significant supplements are the Post Production Diaries, which consist of more than two and a half hours of material, covering every aspect of the postproduction process. This material can be viewed as one continuous program, or by production week, or by subject area. Next we have Skull Island: A Natural History, a mock documentary on the island of Kongís origin, which lasts sixteen minutes. And finally there is Kong's New York, 1933, a twenty-eight minute documentary that places a historic perspective on the city and the era that the story inhabits.
KING KONG is a cinematic wonder that has been beautifully realized by filmmaker Peter Jackson. Universalís DVD looks and sounds as tremendous as the mighty ape himself. If you love fantasy cinema or are a fan of the original- this KING KONG is a must have. Recommended.
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