King Kong (2005)
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King Kong (2005) Ultimate Edition
 

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Review of the extras on the  DVD extended verision

All too often it seems like there is nothing new coming out of Hollywood. One remake, or to use the common term, re-imagining, the same films are made over and over. Fortunately, the trend now has a film that transcends this trend Although the movie is a remake comes across as fresh and new, King Kong. Peter Jackson gives us a film that while based on the original 1933 classic comes across as something deserving of the heritage held by this iconic movie. The beauty and the beast theme have been popular throughout time, but there was something exceptional about the way presentation of this theme in the 1933 film that connected with audiences on a deeply human level. Movie theaters have never been short of creature features, those highly entertaining monster movies that introduced many of us to a lifelong love of film. The difference with ‘King Kong’ back in 1933 was the very words able to distill a feeling of compassion and empathy for the beast. A significant portion of this was due to the genius and artistry of the man responsible for the special effects, Willis O'Brien. It was one of the pioneers of special-effects hoping to originate the craft back in the days of silent movies. Even with the primitive technology and method, he had available he was able to instill King Kong with the humanity that differentiated him any other cinematic monster. Perhaps more importantly, Mr. O’Brien inspired a man who almost single-handedly made special effects an integral part of the storytelling process, Ray Harryhausen. His work and stop motion technology revolutionized filmmaking as he became the leading creator of special-effects with a career spanning 1942 to 1981. Every cinephile, especially those of us who work in the 50s and 60s, owe an incredible debt this man. This incarnation of ‘King Kong’ was made with a special effects team employing the skills of dozens of highly talented people. Before you watch this 2005 edition, do yourself a favor and watch the 1933 King Kong as well as Mr. Harryhausen’s tribute to his inspiration, ‘Mighty Joe Young.' Even if you own a previous addition of this film, it is well worth repurchasing this ultimate collector’s edition, not just for the theatrical and extended releases in Blu-ray before the over 13 hours of additional content. Much of this material covers the creative process used to re-create a pivotal character in cinematic history.

Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) is a struggling actress currently out of work after her vaudeville act closed. Consider the time line of the film is the early 1930s and at the end of the Great Depression, Ann was desperate for some work, hopefully in her chosen profession turning down the unsavory propositions offered for her looks rather than her acting. Life looks potentially better for Ann when she meets producer-director Carl Denham (Jack Black). He is on the verge of losing the backers for his film and just had his leading lady walk out on him. Denham has come across a map of a remote island purportedly inhabited by savages and amazing creatures. He hopes to make a film there using the naïve Ann as the star. Ann is reluctant at first but soon warms to the idea, especially when she sees Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody); a well-known playwright was to pen the script. Denham discovers that Driscoll has only written some fifteen pages of the script and spirited aboard the rag-tag ship and the crew sets off for Skull Island. The only place on board for Driscoll to write is below deck next to the cages of wild animals, perhaps a little in a joke about the treatment of many writers by those that direct their stories. The ship, commanded by Capt. Englehorn (Thomas Kretschmann), a macho man with a lusty attitude towards all aspects of life. Along with his somewhat manic crewman, Jimmy (Jamie Bell), they take on the unknown waters to find the island.

On the island, the pretty blonde Ann will make a special sacrifice for the demigod Kong. None of the tribesmen had ever seen a Caucasian woman, particularly one with soft yellow hair. The natives intend to offer her up to the worshiped beast. The natives bind the frightened young woman to a stake to await her fate. The giant ape bursts on to the scene are immediately becoming smitten by the beauty. In one particularly touching scene Kong postures for Ann and instead of submitting to the natural response of terror she realizes that he is attempting to impress her. Besides the natural benefit of not ripping Ann to pieces, the reaction exhibited by the great ape places him in the role of her protector, defending her from dinosaurs and other massive creatures. Instead of wanting to stay with the ape on the island she begins to see being homeless on the streets back in the States as a viable alternative. Capt. Englehorn and his crew manage to capture Kong and take him back to the ship. Once back in New York Denham locates a loft in SoHo to house the ape. I guess it was easier to find an apartment back then, especially one that permits pets such as this. Denham sees the exploitation of the ape as his ticket to fame and fortune by exhibiting him in New York and eventually the world. Even in this pre-PETA world Kong seemed to have other ideas and escapes to his ultimate end atop the famed Empire State building.

For all those out there that love the original 1933 version, all of this seems to be a rip off. It is not; it is an homage in every sense of the word. Obviously, this movie was a labor of love for all involved, especially director Peter Jackson. This film goes into more emotional depth than was afforded the original. The characters are fleshed out far better with a greater emotional involvement by the actors. I must have seen the 1933 version hundreds of times (I do try my best to avoid the 1976 version). I found myself riveted by this take on the story. Understandably, the technological enhancements occurred over the many decades, but that is the vehicle, not the road and certainly not the journey. Mr. Jackson is a director with a unique perspective on the use of the new expertise to augment the sense of realism making a substantially stronger emotional bond with the audience. Replacing the stop motion technology is the computer driven motion capture technology. Andy Serkis stood In for King Kong with a myriad of sensors placed all over his body. His portrayal of the ape is translated and mapped by the computer to a digital Kong. Over 130 sensors were applied just to his face to translate the facial expressions of Mr. Serkis to the ape, providing an unprecedented degree of realism and humanity to the performance.

Naomi Watts is excellent as Ann Darrow. I have watched her career grow from Tank Girl to such emotionally compelling dramas as 21 Grams. She has never disappointed, and this film is no exception. Watts may be at the top of her game now, but her performance here demonstrates that she can still remember what it is like to be a struggling actress, looking for any role she can get. It must have been difficult for her to become so emotionally invested in scenes where she was acting against a blank green screen. She pulls the audience in with her realistic portrayal. Jack Black is simply perfect as the morally challenged director. He has the bad boy quality down to a science. The great care that is given to the craftsmanship infused in every line of dialogue exhibiting a powerful combination of and humor. Adrien Brody brings new life to the role of writer Jack Driscoll. He doesn’t try to play the romantic lead here; he leaves that to Kong. Instead, he is the proper one in the story. One excellent performance too often overlooked is that of Andy Serkis. Once again he put on a motion capture suite to give the computer graphics people a performance to use as the basis of Kong. Serkis is the best at this after his stellar work as the heinous Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Everyone wondered whether director Peter Jackson could succeed again after the Lord of the Rings. After all, that was tantamount to the perfect film trilogy with its combination of human story and special effects. King Kong shows us all that Jackson still has it. There are many scenes here that are directly from the original, but they are presented with loving care and respect for the 1933 film. Like many of us, Jackson grew up watching the original. He has stated that it helped nurture his love of films. He is not alone here. The original special effects where created by Willis H. O'Brien who made stop action photograph a wonder some 70 years ago. O’Brien was also the hero of a young; aspiring specially effects master, Ray Harryhausen who wound up apprenticed to the master. Harryhausen would go on to create many of the most famous special effects of the fifties. He created the foundation for all current effects, so this film is a fitting tribute to him and the man that inspired his career. Like Rings, Jackson infuses humanity to his film. He never forgets that the story oncludes the portrayal f people cpontributing to the narrative, not just something to cut between the action sequences. You should see this film not only for the state of the art effects but the story. This in itself is something that sets it far above other CGI driven flicks.

Both the theatrical cut running 187 minutes and the 201 minute Extended cut, both remastered for high definition video and audio. You will notice details never before appreciated with this pristine presentation. Many of the extras were in a previous special edition but the quality and quantity of meaningful additional content is amazing.

bulletRecreating the Eighth Wonder: The Making of King Kong
bulletProduction Diaries
bulletPost Production Diaries
bulletDeleted Scenes with Introductions
bulletThe Eighth Blunder of the World
bulletThe Making of a Shot: The T-Rex Fight
bulletSkull Island: A Natural History
bulletKong's New York, 1933
bulletA Night in Vaudeville
bulletFeature Commentary with Writer/Director Peter Jackson and Co-Writer/Director Philippa Boyens
bulletKing Kong Homage
bulletPre-Visualization Animatics

Posted 3/28/06            02/07/2017

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