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King Kong (Blu-ray Review)

11 Feb, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

King Kong

Box Office $218.1 million
$39.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for frightening adventure violence and some disturbing images.
Stars Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell.

On the heels of the commercial and critical success of the “Lord of the Rings” franchise, it seemed fitting in 2005 that director Peter Jackson would tackle venerable gorilla icon King Kong.

Blu-ray is the perfect medium to showcase Jackson’s suspenseful near four-hour (extended) vision of Skull Island — home to the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

With its razor-like clarity, Blu-ray showcases the island’s tropical jungles, ravine waterfalls and sheer mountain cliffs to stunning effect. This same detail is also on display in Kong’s early Depression-era New York scenes, much to the delight of co-writer and producer Philippa Boyens.

“I love how you can see all the way down the streets, the cars, the people, many of whom are computer generated,” Boyens remarks in the audio commentary.

Not surprisingly, Kong won three Oscars, for sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects.

It appears Jackson was in no hurry to leave Skull Island and rather enjoyed subjecting a Jurassic Park-style CGI prehistoric creature thrill ride onto Kong’s eccentric director Carl Denham (well-cast Jack Black in an homage to Orson Welles), assistant Preston (Colin Hanks), writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody), aspiring leading lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and Captain Englehorn’s (Thomas Kretschmann of Valkyrie) hapless crew.

Interspersed among the hundreds of island species endlessly engaged in a “kill-or-be-killed” existence, Darrow, of course, is the object of affection for Kong, an emotion Jackson successfully portrays even in standard-definition.

The BD release offers the requisite “U-Control” option featuring (limited) picture-in-picture material, audio commentary, art galleries, and BD Live staples such as “My Scenes.”

It’s interesting to note that in the commentary, Jackson says he prefers filming leading-actor close-ups later in the production so as to allow them to better identify with the role. This is mentioned during a Denham scene in which Black (during just the second day of filming) is trying to convince studio executives about the merits of funding his newest movie.

“It was difficult for him,” Jackson says.

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