Cover Art and Menu: 7/10
I think I’m too jaded when it comes to DVD covers and movie posters. It takes a real jolt of creativity to shake my timbers and get me excited about cover art. King Kong is a classic tale, told several times with different books, comics, and movies. There’s not a lot of room for artistic interpretation. This cover looks nice, but that’s about all I can say. I loved the original 1933 black and white movie poster. Since then nothing really compares. Therefore, I’m hard to please 🙂 The artwork is nice, but it’s not bold enough to live up to my love affair with the big ape.
The menus on this 2 disc set are functional. That’s about it.
- Introduction By Peter Jackson – If I have to explain this to you, I’m not sure you should be operating a DVD player.
- Post Production Diaries (3 Hours) – Fantastic documentary, day to day, week to week, of the post production portion of making King Kong. Tons of interviews with Peter Jackson, and the rest of the cast. Mostly this is a close up look at the different areas of post production and the people behind the scenes that get movies of this scale made, and released on time. It’s really well made, full of amazing footage of how they did everything from motion capture to modern animation, and there is a bit where we get to meet a true Kong fan who owns the original metal frame of the “puppet” used in the 1933 movie version. Now that’s cool.
- Skull Island A Natural History – This is a cute little mockumentary that covers the “history” of Skull island and it’s inhabitants.
- Kong’s New York 1933 – Making a movie set in New York City 70 years ago takes a lot more work behind the scenes than you can imagine. This is a brief history of how the depression effected the time period when the first movie was made, and how Peter Jackson used elements of true history to bring his version of New York City 1933 alive in the 21st century.
The Movie: 8/10
1976, Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, and a big gorilla in an oil tanker….you can’t top that even with the fine skills of the king of the Lord of the Rings at the helm. It’s an unpopular opinion, I realize that, but since the first time I saw that old school big furry mechanical hand come through the window and grab the heroine, I was a fan of that particular version of the Kong story. That means that when I heard there was going to be another movie about the grand gorilla I was excited, but skeptical. With Peter Jackson directing and Jack Black starring, I had high hopes. I wasn’t disappointed, however, I have to stick to be honest and be loyal to the 76 version. I know it’s not a better movie. I know it’s cheesy and over the top. I know it’s got a lot of hidden agendas politically, blah blah blah..I can’t help it. I was mesmerized watching on a 19 inch TV in my middle American living room on the late night movie on a Saturday night with countless commercial interruptions. I remember turning the channel and seeing the very beginning, you know, when the studio logo comes up and a movie first begins. I was excited to see what was about to start. When it turned out to be King Kong I was so thrilled. You couldn’t have pulled me away from the screen if the house had been on fire. I loved every minute of it.
Coming back to 2006, sitting in the theater at midnight on opening night of the new King Kong I felt that same heart pounding excitement. From frame one to the very end credits I was wide eyed in wonder at the whole idea of that darn hidden island where a giant gorilla could actually exist. Unfortunately my movie loving heart sometimes tries to over look imperfections while my brain kicks in and finds the flaws.
Aside from the fact that I don’t really like Naomi Watts, which does pose a problem when she’s supposed to be filling Fay Wray and/or Jessica Lange’s spot in the Kong girlfriend hall of fame. I tried to put my personal issues with the blonde beauty aside and enjoy the things I was most intrigued by.
Another negative that haunted me throughout the film was the sometimes weak special effects. I know I know..Kong is incredible..Yes. But every time he had his precious Ann Darrow in his hand knocking around, she looked like a Barbie Doll, or a bad CGI Barbie Doll rather. It was just so unnatural and so cartoony it was a distraction. Well, actually, I don’t know what it looks like to see a woman in the hand of a 25 foot gorilla, but I have a good idea that she didn’t look like a cut out from a fashion magazine.
The last kind of poo-poo point I have to make is that as much as I love Jack Black, his corniness did something to make his character more laughable than he should have been. He’s the dude who rips Kong from his natural environment only to further his own career. I hate that. He shouldn’t be quite so quirky charming or goofy, but Mr. Black can’t seem to bottle that no matter what role he’s playing. He does a good job, don’t get me wrong, but I want to despise this creep who ultimately is the cause of Kong’s demise. I did want to see him get squished, but in the 76 version I REALLY wanted to see Charles Grodin get stepped on.
Now, on to the positive happy happy stuff. I love Kong. I should say I love Kong in close ups and mostly non-action shots. A fully CGI creature coming to life is amazing and he looks fantastic. I still have issues with some of that “rag doll” physics that haunt fully movie CGI animals and people in movies. Flashback to Dare Devil and select scenes in Spiderman. I know they can’t be perfect, and I can deal with the occasional glitch in how he moves, just because over all this new Kong make this movie worth watching, again and again.
I also love the story. I dig the whole thing about tricking the cast and crew into going to Skull Island to make some cheap movie. I really like the screen writer character getting trapped in the middle of the action, and the action hero being kind of a wimp.
The island is my favorite part. With scary island natives and a truly dark dreary atmosphere it does top the older versions in terms of making Skull Island seem extremely unpleasant and well hidden from the world. The dinosaurs and other creatures are captivating and the scenes when they are in their glory are so big, so loud, so action packed, it feels like a real adventure.
The city scenes are lower on my list of highlights just because it felt a bit claustrophobic, manufactured, but still exciting. I guess on the island it seems like Kong is so big and powerful, but then they drop him in one of our stupid cities and he becomes small and too easily exploited. Can you tell that I am on the side of Kong?
I always want the ending to be different. This isn’t a spoiler, come on, this story is like 80 years old. We all know Kong falls from the thing because of those other things and he doesn’t make it. I’m always pissed off about that. I want Kong to destroy buildings, smash people, wreck havoc, and bring all his other giant animal friends back with him to take over the western world. Alas, I am destined to be disappointed with this part of the original story. I can’t rewrite Kong to have a happy ending, but a girl can dream.
With a fantastic close up Kong with all his emotions and personality, along with a very cool Skull Island, not to mention some kick ass prehistoric creatures to top things off, this is a must see for fans of the classic tale. If you just like tons of action, tons of special effects, and tons of fur, it’s a fun romp into another time and place. I am giving the movie a generous 8 out of 10 mostly because it still brings me back to that night so long ago when I experienced Kong for the first time and Jackson did a fine job of keeping my romantic view of Kong alive. It’s not an incredible film, it’s telling an old story, and if I had to choose I would go back 30 years and watch the 76 version again before putting the latest incarnation in my DVD player.
For around 22 bucks you can get the standard one disc movie only DVD. For just about $2 more you get the two disc set with the excellent 3 hour documentary and other extras. Even though I still think that $24 is too much, even for a two disc set, it’s worth the extra bit to have the full experience on your DVD shelf. I still think, even with this caliber of extras and big action flick, a DVD like this should be in the $12-$16 range. Keep the dream alive!!!
Overall Score 8/10