Peter Jackson’s King Kong was my favorite blockbuster film last year, combining amazing action sequences with a believable story that had characters you cared about. It also set the bar for visual effects, especially the creation of Kong, the most realistic digital creation to date. I thought it had enough adventure and romance to challenge Titanic, and that it would do good repeat business since I wanted to see it again, and it’s rare when a film makes me feel that way. While my expectations were too great, Kong still did pretty well, earning over $545 million to date in its worldwide box office and in the first six days of the DVD’s release it sold 6.5 million, becoming Universal’s best-selling DVD release.
Now, unless you have a great home theater system, you won’t be able to truly appreciate how marvelous the film is. Kong is bigger than life and needs to engulf the viewer’s senses to transport them back to 1933. This requires sitting in a darkened room, close enough that the film takes up your entire field of vision, and being surrounded by its sound. It’s best to wait to see Kong in a theatre for the first time, actually it’s best to see any film in a theatre for the first time, which is why I pester my friends to wait until they can attend a 70mm screening of Lawrence of Arabia, but those of you outside the Los Angeles area probably don’t have that luxury, so I understand renting this film. But as much as I loved it, I can’t recommend buying the 2-Disc Special Edition.
Of course, the film looks and sounds fantastic in its 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, but the DVD has very few extras, especially if you remember the Special Extended Edition’s of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. On the first disc, there are none unless you count the two commercials, one for the VW Touareg and New York City tourism, and I don’t. On the second disc there are two short features, one is a faux documentary about Skull Island as if it was a real place and another looks at 1933 New York.
The best feature of the DVD is the collection of the Post-Production Diaries, which ran on the website kongisking.net where they can still be found currently. It is a fantastic and thorough look at what took place over the 33 weeks of Kong’s post-production, up to and including the press junkets and premieres. We meet the men and women involved and watch their work in the different departments, such as editing, digital effects, miniatures, motion capture, and sound.
According to the website The Digital Bits, there are rumors of a more elaborate 3- or 4-disc version of the film on DVD coming later in 2006. Apparently Jackson’s audio commentary, several deleted scenes, and other choice extras have been deliberately held back for inclusion the better version, so unless you are a serious collector, I am recommending that you hold off on buying it because the Post-Production Diaries alone do not make this a must-have DVD.
We need to discourage this double-dipping business model that studios are making an all-too-common practice, especially with the new high-definition home video formats rolling out into the marketplace in the near future. Don’t get me wrong; King Kong is a great film, but it is not yet a great DVD.