King Kong

King Kong

DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of King Kong

Universal Home Entertainment has released the mighty King Kong on DVD in a splendid double-disc edition, of which disc 1 is entirely devoted to the feature film.

Anti-piracy notices aside, the transfer is superb, as one would expect from a recent title. Excellent colour rendition, outstanding shadow detail and very little macro blocking or compression related artefacts. And even more surprisingly, there is less low-pass filtering than the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, which results in improved perceivable resolution. A smashing presentation, with few compromises for SD-DVD. I look forward to the high-definition releases.

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Even better is the entirely immersive, lively and artfully crafted Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. Besting the sound design of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, this track pulls out all the stops to deliver a furious and stylised sound palette. Sound effects are crisply recorded and edited with exceptional fidelity, mixed into the active soundstage with occasional wit. Startling and very deep bass is present on this track, from the crushing thumps of the brontosaurus stampede to the depths of Kong's breath as he hunts for Ann on the streets of New York. James Newton Howard - in a hugely compressed timescale, replacing maestro Howard Shore - delivers a very fine orchestral score, which is capably reproduced across the 5.1 mixing board. This finally replaces Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World as my home cinema demo disc. Engage EX decoding for best results.

Disc 2 houses four supplements, which total a generous 200 minutes. First up is a welcome introduction by director Peter Jackson, who capably and succinctly explains his passion for the subject, and provides an overview of the supplements and advises the navigation of the disc.

Next up is the two-and-a-half-hour supplement of Post Production diaries, previously published on kongisking.net. They are an artfully compressed overview of nearly every aspect of postproduction, judiciously keeping a finger on the pulse of each department. Aficionados of the previously released King Kong Production diaries will feel right at home here, as will fans of the mammoth four-disc Lord Of The Rings editions. There are several sections that feel glossed over, not least the Howard Shore replacement and the visual effects secrecy. No matter, these are informative and exceptional diaries of immense value to those seeking the nitty-gritty of How To Make A Blockbuster. They do not lack light-hearted cheeriness, either - witness movie historian/collector Bob Burns bringing the original King Kong puppet to WETA workshop and the resultant fanboy fun. They are worth the price of admission on their own - archived here for posterity.

Cheerfully shaking a stick at natural history documentaries is the next supplement: Skull Island - A Natural History. This short subject covers the timeline of the last uncharted spot on the map. It briefly and wittily covers the natives, the creatures, the flora and fauna of the astonishingly diverse Skull Island and even touches on some species unseen by any version of King Kong. Entertaining stuff.

Finally, Kong's New York, 1933, is of more direct historical interest and plows through the research material afforded by Jackson's enormously expensive production design, from the Depression and the huge unemployment in the city to the grand, large and stupefying skyscraper boom. One can appreciate the technical excellence of the film, when compared more directly with recent historical record.

A welcome stop gap DVD - for the inevitable extended edition, no doubt - for the finest action/adventure film in 25 years. A terrific transfer, superlative audio and bounteous extras. Enjoy!

Reviewed on: 13 Apr 2006
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King Kong packshot
Peter Jackson revisits his favourite film in a great remake.
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Product Code: 8242456

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Introduction by Peter Jackson; post production diaries; Kong's New York, 1933; The Natural History of Skull Island


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