Remember the good old days when an extended edition of a Peter Jackson film added texture and depth to an already impressive work? It seems like it was just a couple years ago. Oh, right, it was just a couple of years ago.
The theatrical version of Jackson’s remake of King Kong was a good film in desperate search of some tighter editing, but this extended edition expands its already elephantine length by another thirteen minutes. Unlike the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings, this extended edition does not substantially alter the story of the film, does not add quiet moments that flesh out the character and does not really improve the film in any way. It’s just longer.
What we do get are two scenes that fans of the 1933 classic will recognize: the triceratops attack and the attack on the raft, all hyped up with more monsters and other WETA Digital goodness. That’s not to say the scenes are bad, but they are simply action scenes that do nothing but throw more pictures and noises at your home theater. Of course, it says a lot about the bloated length of the theatrical version that the film could be three hours long and they still managed to leave out two major sequences from the original.
Aside from these additional scenes, this is essentially the same movie you saw in the theaters. One of the reasons that the 2005 version was so long was that the filmmaker felt the need to flesh out the early part of the film with a lot of character development, some of which is of dubious value to film. The storyline involving a father-son relationship between the first mate of the ship (Evan Parke) and a naïve young crewman (Jamie Bell) could easily have been jettisoned without harming the narrative at all.
Needless to say, the film’s other virtues and flaws are still intact. Jack Black is still memorably sleazy as Carl Denham, Naomi Watts still shines as Ann and Adrian Brody is still overshadowed as screenwriter Jack Driscoll. Kong is still a special effects tour de force and, for a thoroughly digital creation, he has amazing chemistry with his co-star Watts. The Kong/V-Rex fight is still one of best action sequences in recent memories.
The best thing you can say about King Kong is that almost all of the individual pieces are either excellent or very good, but the sum is like an overly rich dessert, just too much of a good thing.
So, if you have the theatrical version on DVD, all you are missing is a couple of special effects sequences that don’t do anything but add a couple of extra cherries on top.